A good deal of hysteria has emanated from the #MeToo Movement, with minor touching and rude remarks rapidly conflating with actual crimes such as rape and child molestation. Not everything is a “firing offense,” if so, there is hardly a politician, entertainer or media personality that would qualify for employment, man or woman. Ever since Rose McGowan called out Harvey Weinstein with accusations of rape and sexual harassment, people have come out of the woodwork to accuse men (mostly) of every sort of indiscretion, some from decades ago. While many of the accusations are legitimate, credible and point to some horrific actual crimes, too many are of the George H. W. Bush “David Coppafeel” variety – the type that demands a sincere public apology, but without the ruination of a person’s career.
Civil society depends on civil relations between people, a constant trial and error process for getting along with each other. There are crimes and indiscretions that surely demand harsh, swift retribution. Then, there are indiscretions of a minor or inconsequential nature where a sincere apology suffices to remedy the wrongdoing.
Franken is accused by at least eight women of unwanted touching that took place during occasions when the Senator posed with them for photographs in public places, such as campaign events or state fairs and the like. While it is impossible to determine whether any or all of these accusers are telling the truth, none of them mentioned the alleged indiscretions at the time of the incident. There are no reports from the women that would indicate something happened – no slapping his hand away or “excuse me Mr. Senator!” protestations in these public places. This is not to say Franken didn’t grope, just that there is no corroborating evidence of the allegations that the Senator firmly denies.
There is solid evidence of Franken’s caddish nature in the form of a photograph taken of him fake-groping television personality Leeanne Tweeden while she slept during a USO tour in which the pair participated. At the time of the incident Franken was, himself, an entertainer and not a person in a power position such as a boss or Senator. The joke photo was meant to humiliate Ms. Tweeden, as practical jokes typically do to the intended target. The Senator claims the picture and his disgusting actions were meant as a joke, and this is likely true. While the so-called joke was of exceptionally poor taste, it does not rise to the level of indiscretion that would see a US Senator driven from office. The people of Minnesota are the only ones who should determine if they want a cad for their senator. For her part, Ms. Tweeden only sought a public apology from the Senator, which she promptly received.
Civil society depends on civil relations between people, a constant trial and error process for getting along with each other. There are crimes and indiscretions that surely demand harsh, swift retribution. Then, there are indiscretions of a minor or inconsequential nature where a sincere apology suffices to remedy the wrongdoing. For those in public life a public apology is a humiliating punishment and often leads to loss of position or income. Such punishment should suffice for these sorts of hijinks. Then too, conflating Franken’s actions, even if all of them are true, with those of the Harvey Weinsteins and Roman Polanskis of the world, will only harm accusers in the end, as such conflation tends to enhance the minor indiscretions and diminish the actual crimes.
Senator Franken has announced that he intends to resign sometime in the coming weeks. A more appropriate course of action is for him to cooperate with the Senate Ethics Committee, accept whatever sanction is meted out and then stand for reelection (if he so chooses) before the voters of Minnesota who are right to judge him on whatever criteria they deem in their best interests.
– The Editors