Al Franken’s rise to fame began on television screens when he earned a household name as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” for over a decade. Since serving in the senate, he’s become a favorite of the democrats for his tenacity in questioning witnesses and his infectious grin, but last week’s sexual harassment accusations against Franken left his colleagues reeling before distancing themselves from the Minnesota legislator. On Tuesday, the women of Saturday Night Live issued a letter, calling Franken a “devoted and dedicated family man.”
The ladies opened by admitting that “what Al did was stupid and foolish,” adding “we think it was appropriate for him to apologize to Ms. Tweeden, and to the public.” They went on to call him a “wonderful comedic performer, and an honorable public servant,” and claimed “not one of us ever experienced an inappropriate behavior; and mention our sincere appreciation that he treated each of us with the utmost respect and regard.”
The letter was signed by 36 women who wrote “we feel compelled to stand up for Al Franken, whom we have all had the pleasure of working with over the years at ‘Saturday Night Live.'” None of the women are currently cast members on the show and only three of them still work on the program. Franken was with the show from 1975 to 1980 as a writer and cast member and returned from 1985 to 1995, NBC reports.
Franken’s office was taken by surprise when the allegations against him came out on November 16, they initially released a brief three-sentence statement but later put out a longer apology to his accuser in which the senator called for an ethics investigation into his behavior. In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he believes the ethics committee should “review the matter” and called on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to join in supporting the investigation.
Over the weekend, Saturday Night Live took aim at Franken with “Weekend Update” host Colin Jost riffing “I know this photo [of Franken] looks bad, but it also is bad.” Some said that the iconic program took it light on their former star, which wasn’t the first time they’ve been accused of skirting around sexual harassment allegations — they were harshly criticized for their initial silence on Harvey Weinstein.
On Monday morning, another woman came forward to accuse Franken of groping her at a state fair while they were taking a photo together in 2010. She says that as she positioned herself beside him, the senator grabbed her butt. In a response, he said “I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don’t remember taking this picture. I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected.”
Franken’s position as the latest powerful man accused of sexual misconduct didn’t even last a week — on Monday, a series of women accused Charlie Rose of inappropriate behavior and sexual advances. Then on Tuesday, documents came to light alleging that Democratic Congressman John Conyers of Michigan previously paid an employee to keep quiet after Conyers was accused of sexual harassment.