Sen. Al Franken, who resigned from the Senate in December amid sexual misconduct allegations, has a new high-profile defender: former President Bill Clinton.
“I will be honest — the Franken case, for me, was a difficult case, a hard case,” Clinton said in a PBS NewsHour interview last week, when he was asked how he felt about changing norms and Franken’s resignation from the Senate. “But I — maybe I’m just an old-fashioned person, but it seemed to me that there were 29 women on Saturday Night Live that put out a statement for him, and that the first and most fantastic story was called, I believe, into question.”
Franken resigned from his post in the Senate last year after eight women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct, which included accusations of groping and forcible kissing by the lawmaker. Clinton’s comments seemed to suggest that Franken should have stayed in the Senate and had his fate decided by the next election.
“Too late to wade into it now. I mean, I think it’s a grievous thing to take away from the people a decision they have made, especially when there is an election coming up again,” Clinton said. “But it’s done now.”
Clinton’s comments are the latest evidence that the Democratic Party is continuing to wrestle with the Franken case, which, as Vox’s Laura McGann wrote in May, remains controversial in some parts of the party. Democrats appear interested in holding themselves to a higher standard than Republicans but are torn about that decision after it affected one of their rising stars.
The PBS interview is among the latest in a string of media appearances the former president has made in recent weeks. What began under the auspices of a book tour to promote a new novel from Clinton and writer James Patterson has rapidly evolved into an interrogation of Clinton’s past behavior and current approach toward the #MeToo movement, including Clinton’s pushback against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s statement that he should have resigned after the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
“I think it’s a good thing that we should all have higher standards,” Clinton added in his PBS interview. “I think the norms have really changed in terms of what you can do to somebody against their will, how much you can crowd their space, make them miserable at work.”