Is Al Franken Scripting a Comeback?

He’s back! Former Minnesota Senator Al Franken has burst out of hiding in a slew of media coverage raising questions over whether the ex-funnyman should have quit his job under pressure over several sexual harassment allegations.

Yahoo News’s headline captures the gist of the revisionist view:  Sorry, Al Franken: 7 senators regret pushing Franken to resign, as new reporting casts doubt on key allegation.

[Reporter Jane] Mayer talked to a number of the Democratic senators who urged Franken to step down, and seven regretted it, with Sen. Patrick Leahy saying it was “one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made” in his 45-year Senate career.

The abrupt relitigation of Franken’s self-inflicted fall from power in December 2017 results from a book-length 12,500 word article by Jane Mayer just out in the New Yorker magazine.  Speaking of regrets, Franken admits publicly for the first time that he made a big mistake by allowing Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer effectively decide who represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate by pressuring him to step down.

When I asked him if he truly regretted his decision to resign, he said, “Oh, yeah. Absolutely.” He wishes that he had appeared before a Senate Ethics Committee hearing, as he had requested, allowing him to marshal facts that countered the narrative aired in the press. It is extremely rare for a senator to resign under pressure. No senator has been expelled since the Civil War, and in modern times only three have resigned under the threat of expulsion: Harrison Williams, in 1982, Bob Packwood, in 1995, and John Ensign, in 2011.

Franken also lashed out at his Democratic colleagues who so quickly turned against him. Not long afterward, he says the embarrassing episode led him to seek treatment for depression.

…Franken told me, “I’m angry at my colleagues who did this. I think they were just trying to get past one bad news cycle.” For months, he ignored phone calls and cancelled dates with friends. “It got pretty dark,” he said. “I became clinically depressed. I wasn’t a hundred per cent cognitively. I needed medication.”

At one point in the interview, Franken broke down and wept over the comments from one of his key accusers, according to Mayer. Yet Franken told the New Yorker in some respects he’s still trying to figure out exactly what went wrong.

Franken feels deeply sorry that he made women uncomfortable, and is still trying to understand and learn from what he did wrong. But he told me that “differentiating different kinds of behavior is important.” He also argued, “The idea that anybody who accuses someone of something is always right—that’s not the case. That isn’t reality.”

There’s no indication Franken plans a comeback–yet. First he has to put his troubled past behind him, a task the New Yorker piece goes a long way in attempting to accomplish.