It feels like a lifetime ago that former Democratic Minnesotan Sen. Al Franken resigned.
It was the tail of 2017, with the #MeToo movement picking up speed and a hurricane of allegations that Franken groped and forced kisses on various women. In the end, Franken departed with an impassioned speech and thoughtful pats on the back from many of the same Democratic colleagues who’d urged him to call it quits.
Now we’re hearing from Franken again, thanks to a lengthy profile by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker.
The picture Mayer paints is of a disillusioned and bemused man—even a sad one—walking around his Minneapolis row house “in jeans and stocking feet,” proffering hummus and vegetables arranged in takeout containers. America, Mayer writes, has “ghosted” him.
To a degree, Franken seems to get it. He acknowledges that the public might not want to hear the grievances of a man who's been “MeToo’d.”
“Yet, he added, being on the losing side of the #MeToo movement, which he fervently supports, has led him to spend time thinking about such matters as due process, proportionality of punishment, and the consequences of Internet-fueled outrage,” Mayer writes.
But the beat during that interview that speaks the loudest was Franken’s answer to whether he regretted resigning:
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Absolutely.”
The regret doesn’t belong to him alone. As the Star Tribune pointed out, no fewer than seven current and former senators told Mayer they rued calling for Franken’s resignation.
Echoes reverberated across social media after the profile was published. University of Minnesota law professor and political candidate Richard Painter retweeted it, saying the Senate’s “dumbest move” was “getting rid of” Franken, while the House’s was “not getting rid of Trump,” even though more severe accusations against the president run well into the double figures.
But other voices encouraged readers not to brush off Franken’s alleged sins so easily, including Minneapolis political columnist Ana Marie Cox.
“Whatever sympathy you feel for Franken, please spare a thought today for… all the women who see Mayer’s piece and decide again that the story of the powerful man who made them feel cheap and small isn’t worth telling,” she tweeted.
Others were blunter. “Who among us has not honk-honked an unconscious woman’s boobies?” another Twitter user sarcastically wrote. “Dumbest possible timeline we’re in, folks.”
Others still are tired of talking about Franken at all—calling his story a “zombie” to be “dredged up” in the headlines while his replacement, Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, is doing her job just fine without Franken levels of controversy. When America “ghosts” you, you are supposed to stay dead.
Regardless of scattered calls for Franken to come back to the limelight, his former colleague, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, was quoted in the Tribune about his designs—or lack thereof—for public office.
“That’s going to be his decision,” she said. “But I think he’s made it pretty clear to me that that’s not what he plans right now.”