Two and half years after Minnesota Democrat and former Saturday Night Live star Al Franken was forced to resign his U.S. Senate seat, a new report reveals that his former colleagues pressured him to quit after much of the media was hoodwinked by a third-rate conservative radio station that wanted to be Donald Trump’s #1 Fan in Los Angeles.
Just before Thanksgiving 2017, Trump-loving talk radio station KABC-AM released a photo of Franken from a 2006 USO tour that features Franken pretending to grope fellow performer Leeann Tweedan—KABC’s morning drive anchor—aboard a U.S. military plane. The station also aired Tweedan’s claims that the Franken had written an unwanted kiss into a sketch and that he sexually harassed her for weeks.
But as The New Yorker reports, three top KABC executives had been working with Tweedan after hours for weeks to get her story straight, without fact-checking most of it. The station also did not seek comment from Franken before posting the story online, though they did tip off The Drudge Report and others the day before.
And it might have ended there if news outlets that are usually more reliable had bothered to vet the tale.
Slate jumped right in with the headline “Franken Should Resign Immediately,” much to the delight of Breitbart and Fox, which both zealously reported on Slate’s coverage. Tweedan then embarked on media tour with CNN’s Jake Tapper (who’d also been given a head’s up a day before Franken), Sean Hannity, and the cast of The View.
It took just over a week for Franken to step down after receiving pressure from both sides of the aisle. Now, many of Franken’s former colleagues say they regret the rush to judgment.
Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy said pushing for Franken’s resignation was, “one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made” in forty-five years in the Senate. Former North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp concluded, “If there’s one decision I’ve made that I would take back, it’s the decision to call for his resignation. It was made in the heat of the moment, without concern for exactly what this was.”
Asked if he regretted his decision to quit the Senate, Franken told The New Yorker, “Yeah. Absolutely.”
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.