al franken snl sexual assault

36 Female Former SNL Staffers Thought It Necessary to Let Us Know Al Franken Never Assaulted Them

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36 female former Saturday Night Live employees have released a statement in support of Al Franken. None currently work on the show, but are various staff members (plus original cast member Jane Curtain) from Franken’s era. All of them felt the need to let us know what a great guy Franken is, and that he never harassed or assaulted any of them.

They write, “We feel compelled to stand up for Al Franken, whom we have all had the pleasure of working with over the years on Saturday Night Live (SNL).

“What Al did was stupid and foolish, and we think it was appropriate for him to apologize to Ms. Tweeden, and to the public. In our experience, we know Al as a devoted and dedicated family man, a wonderful comedic performer, and an honorable public servant. That is why we are moved to quickly and directly affirm that after years of working with him, we would like to acknowledge that not one of us ever experienced any inappropriate behavior; and mention our sincere appreciation that he treated each of us with the utmost respect and regard.”

This is not a helpful letter.

Oh, you’re telling us that Al Franken didn’t molest every woman he met and worked with? Yeah, we figured as much. Sure, I bet Al Franken was awesome to work with. That does not change his despicable actions against Leeann Tweeden, nor his groping of a second woman in 2010, nor any other women who might eventually come out with their own stories because when a man assaults two women it is likely there are more. Also, writing his actions off as “stupid and foolish” is a cruelly dismissive minimization.

This letter will make it harder for any other women who may have experienced harassment or assault by Franken to speak out, especially if any of those women do happen to have worked at SNL. What if one woman on the show was harassed or groped or intimidated by Franken? What if 10 women were? The process of reporting that sort of experience is already taxing, with plenty of hurdles to keep victims silent. This letter just added 36 more.

The letter also shifts the focus from Franken’s actions to Tweeden’s uniqueness. It highlights the idea that she is different from all these other women, and while it may not be intentional, the effect is to silently raise the question of why. What made her different? What did she do to bring this on?

Some of the men being accused of criminal sexual misconduct are not surprises. Harvey Weinstein had a reputation for being a “bully.” Brett Ratner is a known creep. But far too many of these men have friends and family and coworkers who never saw it coming and are so shocked. These men are known in their own communities and by fans as brilliant feminist comedians or father-figure role models or even as progressive politicians working diligently every day to protect lower- and middle-class Americans.

And it’s not just famous men. How many women haven’t been believed because the man she’s accusing of harassment or rape or any number of things is such a good guy? Pillar of the community, they so often say. Some men deliberately cultivate these great reputations as a shield to deflect suspicion. Some really are great friends, businessmen, comedians, whathaveyou. That does not mean they can’t also abuse women.

We don’t need letters like the one from these SNL women, offering their testimony to Franken’s great humanity. We don’t need them to “send [their] support and gratitude to Al and his family this Thanksgiving and holiday season.” Yeah, Franken’s probably having a pretty lousy Thanksgiving. But so are all the women who feel fear or anxiety or exhaustion in sharing their stories of survival (whether they be about Franken or literally anyone else), who feel shamed and silenced by this kind of “but he’s a nice guy” show of support for abusers.

(via The Hill, image: YouTube, NBC)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.