Gloria Steinem penned her own defense, “Feminists and the Clinton Question,” in The New York Times. “Like most feminists, most Americans become concerned about sexual behavior when someone’s will has been violated; that is, when ‘no’ hasn’t been accepted as an answer,” she wrote. In 1998, this was the final word for feminists: Yes, Bill was a womanizer, but, relax, the ladies liked it.
I ignored the very idea that Bill Clinton raped Juanita Broaddrick. I put it in the same category as Bill Ayers, the New Black Panther Party, and Benghazi: A shorthand swipe Republicans lob on cable TV. Besides, I liked Bill Clinton. I had a single mother too. I also liked Hillary. As first lady, she made old men furious for not “knowing her place.” The Clintons were an inspiration to me.
Then Tweeden tweeted #metoo.
The detail in Tweeden’s story that keeps rolling over in my mind was after the forced kiss, while they were still on tour, Franken would toss out, “petty insults, including drawing devil horns on at least one of the headshots I was autographing for the troops.” That report fits with the classic pattern of sexual harassment. Ribbing Tweeden to let her know she wasn’t being accommodating enough—nice enough—to him. Boundaries and rebuffing turn beautiful women into bitches.
In the days that followed Tweeden’s account, Lindsay Menz told CNN that Franken had groped her when she asked him to pose for a photo in 2010 at the Minnesota State Fair. “As my husband took the picture, he put his hand full-fledged on my rear," Menz said. "It was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek.” Another woman told HuffPost that she had posed for a picture with Franken in 2007, at a Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus event. “He grabbed my buttocks during a photo op,” she said. A third said she introduced herself to Franken at a 2007 event. “I shook his hand, and he put his arm around my waist and held it there,” she told HuffPost. “Then he moved it lower and cupped my butt.” Stephanie Kemplin, an army veteran, posed for a photo with Franken while he was on a USO tour in 2003. “When he put his arm around me, he groped my right breast,” she told CNN. “He kept his hand all the way over on my breast.” And on Wednesday, a former Democratic aide told Politico Franken had tried to forcibly kiss her when she appeared on his radio show in 2006.
“He’s not a sexual predator,” protested Randi Rhodes, the left-wing radio host, hours after Tweeden’s story broke. “This has got to be because he bested Jeff Sessions,” Franken’s former Air America co-worker offered. Rhodes said she’d never witnessed anything like what Tweeden had described. Then she weirdly added, “Al Franken is a lip kisser.” And, “He does kiss on the lips instead of the cheek.”
There were other women who rushed to defend him. The comedian and political activist Chelsea Handler went on Bill Maher’s show the next night. “Al isn’t a sexual predator,” she declared. Then 36 former Saturday Night Live colleagues also chimed in: He had not sexually harassed them, either. As Handler put it, “We all know Al, okay?”