In a failed effort to prove that disgraced former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) was “railroaded,” the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer has published thousands of words full of deceptions, half-truths, and glaring lies of omission.
Let me first point out that I agree with Mayer on one crucial point: Franken was indeed wrong to resign. His fellow Democrat senators were wrong to pressure him to resign. The elite media, who believed Franken needed to resign in order for Democrats to pick up a senate seat in Alabama, were wrong to pressure him to resign.
We The People should be the only ones to decide who represents us. That is OUR decision. And it was outrageously un-American for politicians and media elites to demand a statewide election be overturned; and it was cowardly for Franken to allow it to happen when there is already a mechanism in place for We The People to replace a U.S. senator — an election.
But Mayer doesn’t even bother to argue that point. She is only interested in rewriting history for a left-wing politician she admires and, in doing so, she also sees a way (without any facts) to launch a bizarre conspiracy theory that blames this injustice on Fox News; Breitbart News; and Franken’s lone right-leaning accuser, Leeann Tweeden.
We’ll start with Mayer’s obsessive and deceptive attacks on Tweeden, the KABC morning news anchor who, in November 2017, leveled the first of what would become a total of eight credible accusations of misconduct against Franken.
On top of accusing Franken of French-kissing her without consent, Tweeden released the infamous 2006 photo of Franken taking advantage of her while she was asleep. In the photo, a leering Franken appears to be groping her breasts over a flak jacket.
At the time the photo was taken, the married Franken was 55 years old, two years away from being elected to the U.S. Senate, and on his seventh U.S.O. tour to entertain the troops overseas. Tweeden was on her ninth U.S.O. tour.
Mayer literally spends thousands of words attacking Tweeden’s credibility, but it’s all sleight-of-hand, all speculation and spin.
We will start here…
1. Franken Didn’t Write the Skit for Tweeden
Here’s what Mayer writes to attack Franken’s accuser:
[Tweeden] alleged that [Franken] had written a skit with a kissing scene expressly for her, telling her, “When I found out you were coming on this tour, I wrote a little scene, if you will, with you in it.” She said that when she saw the script, which required them to kiss, “I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute.”
Mayer than spends an interminable amount of space proving Franken had performed this kissing skit many times in the past with different women, which means he did not write it for Tweeden, which would be big news, except… Although she pretends to have debunked Tweeden’s claim and proven her a liar, Mayer doesn’t come close.
Here’s how Tweeden originally reported it:
I was only expecting to emcee and introduce the acts, but Franken said he had written a part for me that he thought would be funny, and I agreed to play along.
When I saw the script, Franken had written a moment when his character comes at me for a “kiss.” I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute, or put my hand over his mouth, to get more laughs from the crowd.
On the day of the show Franken and I were alone backstage going over our lines one last time. He said to me, “We need to rehearse the kiss.” I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, “Relax Al, this isn’t SNL…we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.”
He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.
He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said “OK” so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.
As you can see, Tweeden did not just claim Franken wrote the skit for her. Rather, Tweeden claims Franken told her he wrote the part for her and then used this gift to convince her to perform with him and then dropped the kissing stuff on her. This is a classic example of how the casting couch works and nothing Mayer reports disputes a word of that.
What’s more, Mayer never even mentions the crucial fact that Tweeden believed her only role on the U.S.O. tour was as an emcee and that it was Franken and his “kissing skit” that expanded that role.
That seems like the kind of thing an investigative reporter would want to look into.
2. Tweeden Attended an Event Honoring Franken in 2009
Talk about dishonesty…
In 2009, [Mayer] had attended a U.S.O. awards ceremony, in Washington, honoring [Franken]; photographs of the event capture them laughing together.
This is just a flat-out lie on Mayer’s part — a lie of omission, but a lie nonetheless.
At this link you can read a contemporaneous report of the event in question, and as you will see this was not an event “honoring” Al Franken. Rather, it was an event honoring Franken and a whole bunch of brave veterans, including “36 of the nation’s 98 living Medal of Honor recipients and other battlefield heroes from each branch of service[.]”
In other words, Mayer’s claim that Tweeden attended an event honoring Franken, while leaving out the fact that dozens of actual veterans were also honored, seems to be an attempt on Mayer’s part to mislead her readers, to give them the false impression Tweeden was okay with hanging around with her “abuser” after the abuse.
The truth, however, is that Tweeden — a woman who has done countless U.S.O. tours — was almost certainly there to honor the veterans, not some washed-up comedian.
As far as Tweeden acting pleasant in Franken’s presence, that’s what professionals do, that’s how classy people act at public events, especially sacred events involving Medal of Honor winners.
3. The Groping Photo Is No Big Deal Because of Tweeden Appeared In a Skit About Groping
Mayer seems to believe the following mitigates Franken groping a sleeping woman:
The U.S.O. skit didn’t end with the kissing scene. In a coda, Franken appears as a doctor who has just had “a cancellation” in his appointment schedule. Tweeden’s character is informed that “a woman your age should have a complete breast examination every year”; Franken then approaches her with his arms outstretched and his hands aimed at her chest. The script calls for Tweeden’s character to protest, “Al! At ease!” Franken, with a dirty-old-man nod to the audience, replies, “I’m afraid it’s a little too late for that.”
It’s understandable that Tweeden objected to Franken’s having reënacted the gag for a photograph while she was asleep. But when she wrote, “How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?,” she omitted the fact that she had performed the “breast exam” bit multiple times.
The idea that what happens on stage, where you play a character, in some way excuses or explains away behavior that occurs off stage, or that Tweeden was deceptive by not including that bit about the groping skit in her reporting, is simply stupid.
4. The Date of the Groping Photo
Tweeden believes the groping photo was taken on Christmas Eve, the day the tour ended, and that it was a final act of aggression on Franken’s part, a childish way to humiliate her for rejecting him.
The tour wrapped and on Christmas Eve we began the 36-hour trip home to L.A. After 2 weeks of grueling travel and performing I was exhausted. When our C-17 cargo plane took off from Afghanistan I immediately fell asleep, even though I was still wearing my flak vest and Kevlar helmet.
It wasn’t until I was back in the US and looking through the CD of photos we were given by the photographer that I saw this one:
Here’s Mayer’s attempt to debunk that:
Metadata from the camera suggests [sic] that, contrary to Tweeden’s statement, the image was taken not on Christmas Eve, 2006, as a final taunt, but on December 21st. Photographs of a stage performance the previous day show Franken advancing toward Tweeden with splayed hands as she fends him off with a script, smiling in a winter coat and a Santa Claus hat.
So, once again, Mayer uses on-stage behavior to mitigate the grotesque photo, but what’s most fascinating is that Mayer can only say that the metadata “suggests” the photo was not taken December 24. But no one Mayer interviewed who participated in this particular U.S.O. tour is on record backing that claim.
Did Mayer not ask anyone who was on the plane when the photo was taken? And if Mayer asked Franken (who is sympathetically interviewed and asked no hard questions) the date, she doesn’t bother to mention his answer.
Did she not ask Franken when the photo was taken?
If not, why not?
5. A Fox News Conspiracy
In an effort to discredit Tweeden, Mayer spends a thousand or so words smearing Tweeden as a — gasp — conservative, as a friend of Sean Hannity’s, as having a relationship with Fox News.
Even though, you know, Fox News did not break the Franken story.
Even though, you know, Sean Hannity knew about the photo for years and didn’t use it even when Franken ran for the Senate.
Regardless, without any evidence to back up her conspiracy theory, Mayer writes:
There was a history of deep animosity between Fox News’ conservative hosts and Franken. Fox sued Franken over his 2003 best-seller, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,” which relentlessly disparages the network and its big star at the time, Bill O’Reilly. It includes a chapter mocking Hannity as, among other things, “an angry, Irish Ape-man.” Franken writes that, after having a greenroom shouting match with Hannity about Rush Limbaugh, in 1996, he “had never in my life hated a person more.” Fox dropped the suit, but O’Reilly reportedly threatened vengeance. When Andrea Mackris later sued O’Reilly for sexually harassing her while she was a producer at Fox News, she revealed that, in 2004, O’Reilly had told her, “If you cross Fox News Channel, it’s not just me, it’s Roger Ailes”—at the time the head of the network—“who will go after you. . . . Ailes operates behind the scenes, strategizes and makes things happen so that one day BAM! The person gets what’s coming to them but never sees it coming. Look at Al Franken, one day he’s going to get a knock on his door and life as he’s known it will change forever. That day will happen, trust me.” When Tweeden accused Franken, one of his wife’s first thoughts was of O’Reilly’s prediction.
That is what you call a non sequitur, red meat, a distraction, total drivel that in no way connects to anything that actually happened.
Nor does this:
At 1 a.m. on November 16th, Roger Stone, the notorious right-wing operative, announced, on Twitter, “It’s Al Franken’s ‘time in the barrel.’ Franken next in long list of Democrats to be accused of ‘grabby’ behavior.” After Tweeden’s story was posted, Alex Jones, the extremist radio host, boasted on his show that Stone had told him, in advance, “Get ready. Franken’s next.” Stone told me that an executive at Fox who was friendly with Tweeden had tipped him off.
All her conspiracy theorizing comes down to is something Mayer drops as casually as possible (emphasis added):
The station gave Franken less advance warning than it gave the Drudge Report, which it tipped off the previous day. After posting the story, Tweeden embarked on a media tour, starting with a live press conference and proceeding to interviews with CNN’s Jake Tapper (who had been alerted the previous day), Sean Hannity, and the cast of “The View.”
The “station” in question is Tweeden’s employer, KABC-AM. They broke the story and obviously are guilty only of alerting other news outlets in advance of the coming bombshell, even including fake news outlets like CNN and The View.
This is standard operating procedure throughout all the media, including the alleged victim embarking on interviews right after the story breaks. No one was setting Franken up by offering a heads up on this story. This was no conspiracy. This was KABC looking to gain as much traction as possible, which is what every news outlet does, including Mayer’s own New Yorker.
6. Tweeden Said She Could ‘Get Into Harvard’
This is just pure straw-grasping on Mayer’s part:
Tweeden may have had reasons to worry about how her story would be received. In the past, she had been accused of making misstatements about her life. In 2002, when she was twenty-eight, she appeared on “The Howard Stern Show” to promote her inclusion in FHM’s “100 Sexiest Women” feature. Stern questioned a claim, in her official bio, that she had turned down admission to Harvard University in order to model. At first, Tweeden chatted with Stern about growing up in Manassas, Virginia, where her father was a mechanic in the Air Force. She said that she had graduated from high school at sixteen and “ran off with a thirty-year-old guy” at seventeen. Stern asked, “Didn’t you say you got into Harvard, but you turned it down for modelling?” She answered, “Yeah, I was going to go.” Stern said, “What do you mean you were going to go? You didn’t get in!” Tweeden stuck to her story, explaining that her mother was friends with someone who got the children of celebrities into Ivy League schools—and could have secured her a spot, too. Stern asked for her SAT scores; she said that she couldn’t remember them, but guessed that they were around twelve hundred. “You couldn’t get into Harvard!” he said. Tweeden insisted, “I guarantee you, if I had wanted to, I could, absolutely.”
This is it?
Mayer literally spends some 5,000 words trying to destroy Tweeden’s credibility, but this is the only example from Tweeden’s past Mayer could find: a then-28-year-old pin-up queen playing cute about “being able to get into Harvard.” And then when Stern questioned her, what did Tweeden do? She told the truth? She admitted it was all speculation on her part.
Oh, no, you mean all those beauty queens aren’t really interested in solving world peace, long walks on the beach, and men who aren’t afraid to cry?
7. Naturally, Breitbart Is Part of the Conspiracy
As a means to pad her conspiracy, Mayer found the lamest way imaginable to bring Breitbart News into it. But because we never got any part of the story wrong and reported everything responsibly, Mayer could only bring us into it by making a fool of herself:
Breitbart, which loathed Franken’s politics, elicited gleeful comments from readers after it posted a piece from Slate, a liberal publication, headlined “Franken Should Resign Immediately.” The article argued that “there is no rational reason to doubt the truth of Tweeden’s accusations, no legitimate defense of Franken’s actions, and no ambiguity.”
Naturally, Mayer could not come straight out and report that a left-wing outlet like Slate called for Franken to resign, because that would undermine her whole vast right-wing conspiracy theory, so she dishonestly frames something Slate published around Breitbart News.
Talk about shifty…
But now we get to my favorite part, that part where, after spending thousands of words smearing Tweeden, Mayer rushes through and glosses over the other seven — seven! — Franken accusers and all the inconvenient facts that come with them.
8. Franken’s Second Accuser Has a Photograph
Franken’s second accuser claims that the then-sitting senator grabbed her butt while the two of them were photographed together. While the photo does not prove she was groped, it does prove her claim that they were photographed together.
Mayer doesn’t bother to mention this rather important piece of confirmation.
9. Franken’s Fourth Accuser Has Contemporaneous Witnesses
Franken’s fourth accuser is/was a Franken supporter. She claims Franken groped her butt and then asked her for sex in a nearby bathroom.
Mayer fails to mention that HuffPost spoke to friends of the accuser who verified she told them about the senator’s inappropriate behavior at the time
“I’m a liberal person. … I voted for him after this happened,” she added.
10. Franken’s Fifth Accuser Is an Army Veteran
Mayer doesn’t even mention Franken’s fifth accuser, Army veteran Stephanie Kemplin, who claims Franken grabbed her breast:
In one of multiple lengthy phone calls with a CNN reporter this week, Kemplin repeatedly broke into sobs.
“I was in a war zone… You were on a USO tour — are you trying to boost the morale of the troops or are you trying to boost your own?” she said. “I just feel so sorry for that young girl in that picture.”
Why would Mayer omit this story?
11. Franken’s Seventh Accuser Is a Lifelong Democrat
Why would Mayer tell the story of Franken’s seventh accuser and leave out the pertinent fact that the woman accusing him of trying to kiss her without her consent … is a lifelong Democrat?
What you have with Franken is proof that 1) a number of the women are able to prove they were with him when they claim to have been groped, 2) this was no political hit job because at least half of his eight — eight! — accusers are Democrats, and 3) Franken’s responses throughout the scandal shifted from “I don’t remember” to cryptic apologies about making these women feel uncomfortable — as opposed to Hell no, I have never done anything like that in my life!
Mayer’s sub-headline reads: “A close look at the accusations against the former senator,” but that’s also a lie. She only takes a close look at one.
You see, Mayer chose to focus on and smear Tweeden, because Mayer found she was unable to exonerate Franken with facts — so she’s looking to resurrect him by creating a partisan distraction.
Basically, Mayer believes that if she can gin up a “Two Minutes Hate” against that Trumptard Tweeden, everyone will look past the inconvenient fact that Tweeden has seven — seven! — other women backing up her claim Franken is an entitled creep who likes to abuse his power as a means to grope and kiss women without their consent.
Because Mayer cannot explain away those other seven — seven! — women and the fact that at least four — four! — are Democrats, she pours the lies and hate all over Tweeden, the woman who finally had the courage to come forward, and…
The only woman in the entire #MeToo movement to produce photographic proof of a #MeToo violation.
This has been today’s reminder that the establishment media are pure garbage.