As Democratic leaders grapple with what to do with Senator Al Franken following accusations of sexual misconduct, Forward readers are polarized on the question of whether he should resign or not.
In a poll conducted on the Forward’s Twitter account, 51% of Forward’s followers said Franken should resign immediately. 23% believed Franken shouldn’t, with another 19% saying he should resign “only if Trump does too.” Just 7% said he shouldn’t resign “without more accusations.”
Should Al Franken resign?— The Forward (@jdforward) November 21, 2017
The Forward’s Facebook audience told a different story, however. After the Forward asked its readers whether Franken should resign, the vast majority of commenters on Facebook stood by Franken, with few saying he needs to resign or that people should wait for the process to unfold.
In defending Franken, many noted the less severe nature of accusations against him compared to Roy Moore or Donald Trump. “[Al Franken] is human and has been careless and naughty and done a few things many famous men and women do to make non-celebrities ( adults ) feel ‘liked’,” said one commenter. “HOWEVER; [Franken] is not accused of assault, forceful rape, molestation, and was never reported to any authority at any time when these alleged incidents he’s accused of took place! Conclusion: none of these things compare to the culture of extreme chauvinism and WORSE…exploitation of minors and/or vulnerable persons” found in Republican scandals.
Some readers also emphasized these allegations should be considered in the context of changing times. “This is getting totally ridiculous. We are applying today’s values to things that happened years ago,” said one reader. “I am not condoning pedophilia or rape, but many unwelcome behaviors were part of every industry.”
“We don’t elect leaders to be moral paragons; we elect leaders to make our country safe and prosperous,” added another commenter, using Bill Clinton as an example. “By today’s standards, [feigned groping is] beyond the pale, but by the standards of the time, [it is] gross, immature and rude, but not sexual aggression.”
Other readers went a step further to level partisan accusations, highlighting one accuser’s support for Trump as a reason to question her claims, or by insisting “GOP dirty tricks” were involved in a “witch hunt,” as evidenced by Roger Stone’s knowledge of forthcoming accusations before they went public. “These are hit jobs. Orchestrated by Bannon, Stone, etc. Franken’s female staffers come to his defense,” said one follower on Facebook.
Very few responses dealt strictly with the accusations levied — not without discussing past Republican transgressions first. “Get back to me after Clarence Thomas resigns, and after Moore and Trump have retired permanently from public life,” read the Facebook comment with the most likes.
Based on their Facebook comments, at least, Forward readers seem to be in agreement: in a time where a man accused of sexual assault or harassment by over a dozen women is elected president, Franken’s past juvenile behavior is not grounds for resignation, and for him to do so would only hinder the liberal and feminist cause. As one male reader said: “He should remain in the Senate and show other overall decent men who have erred how to shoulder the guilt honestly, responsibly and humbly, continuing to be a servant for the good causes that will help shift the culture away from the toxic tropes that have left so many men immature about boundaries and sexuality for so long.”
Steven Davidson is an editorial fellow at the Forward.