Political junkies read the Washington Post and the New York Times just about every day. We feel like we are flying blind on any day that we don’t. There are no more influential print media outlets anywhere in the world- especially since a cold war has broken out at the Wall Street Journal between the news room and the editorial board since Rupert Murdoch got his skeevy hands on it. So when the Post or the Times screws up there is no telling how far or how fast the ripples will travel. Yesterday was the Post’s day to wet themselves. When I read the piece the Post released by The Fix reporter Amber Phillips yesterday morning about the second accuser of Senator Al Franken my blood started to boil because they are coming unglued at the worst possible time. The stakes are way too high right now for them to be pulling bullsh*t like this.
Setting aside for a moment any nefarious motives that can be assigned to the writer of the story, there was a clear choice to sensationalize and speculate rather than report facts and analyze them. Rather than focusing on reporting the news, the Post is getting caught up in the hysteria of the moment and rushing to get to the front of the line on a hot story. Yes, another woman has accused Al Franken of sexual misconduct- reporting that he gripped her ass-cheek while the two were taking a picture together at the Minnesota State Fair.
But framing the story as if this revelation would lead to his downfall in the Senate was patently ridiculous. Even worse it was silly as hell. This big ass-grabbing reveal is not going to lead to Franken’s departure from the Senate and it shouldn’t- and it isn’t just because we have a confessed p*ssy grabber in the White House either. Thinking people know that but there are a lot of sheep in human bodies out there just waiting to be told what to think and those people only need to hear from their chosen shepherd that “the Washington Post says that Al Franken might have to resign now because a second accuser came forward! Oh my Gawd, it’ just like Roy Moore!” And once that happens, the narrative is set, the dye is cast and our political environment will look about as orderly as that bizarre world that Thor had to escape from in Ragnorock.
I am a fair-minded man and most fair-minded people recognize that the desperation to make a big splash on Senator Franken’s controversy is extreme because of the dramatic and award-worthy work done by the NY Times reporters on the Roy Moore child molestation story. Journalists are competitive and crave attention and glory as much as any other profession. But that desperation can make the work produced devolve from journalism into tabloidism when the upshot of your piece is that “he didn’t deny it” and that “he said himself that accusers should get the benefit of the doubt” and then you buttress these threadbare assessments with a gross mischaracterization of the case that Senator Franken has admitted to and apologized for.
The worst f*ck up in this piece was saying that Franken “grabbed (Leeann Tweeden’s) breast while she was asleep on the flight home (from their USO tour in Afghanistan)” This is the picture:
Obviously, Franken is posing for a picture and trying to be funny (comedians do that). It is a juvenile, stupid, tasteless and offensive pose but it is a pose. This picture does NOT capture a groping, molestation or physical contact of any kind. He looks like a complete asshole in this picture but don’t let that make you see something that isn’t there and Amber Phillips is trying to do exactly that. Anybody who has follows this story knows damned well that Mrs. Tweeden herself has never said that he “grabbed her breasts.” She busted his ass for kissing her during a rehearsal in a manner that went well beyond what she thought was necessary to prepare for a comedy sketch they were about to perform- and then he compounded the offense by acting like a dick about her objection after the fact.
So we are talking about two wholly distinguishable sets of facts here that this woman- who is doing political analysis for the f*cking Washington Post for God’s sake- has recklessly conflated in order to build a false narrative that is preferable to her because it is more salacious than the truth. I don’t know much about Amber Phillips beyond the fact that she has a platform that could do a lot of good or a lot of harm. I don’t know her political leanings but what I am absolutely certain about is that she is eager to see the misadventures of Al Franken continue to grow so that her own stature will follow suit. What she wrote was absolute garbage and she needs to own that along with the editors who let sloppiness like that slide through the editorial process and make it out to tens of millions of people all over the world.
The only thing that is worse than her botched analysis of this case are the facts revealed in every story on this incident. Evidently, this woman whose ass-cheek was palmed by Senator Franken, Lindsay Menz, is surrounded by the weakest men I have ever heard of in my life. All parties confirm that she reported to both her husband AND her father what happened during Selfie-Gate. Upon hearing”honey, Senator Franken just gripped my ass while you were taking that picture!” and “daddy, Senator Franken just fondled me out here in public!” both men did…… NOTHING. Not a damned thing.
That is the most scandalous fact in this whole story. There is nothing surprising about a famous man (especially one who was famous in entertainment for decades before he was famous in politics) getting too handsy with a pretty young woman who comes bouncing up to him with excited glee asking to take a picture. Is that an invitation to ass-grab? No. But let’s not be like Amber Phillips and suspend our discernment.
There is nothing shocking about that. But the man who you married doesn’t do sh*t about it and the man who gave you away doesn’t do sh*t about it is absolutely shocking. So Lindsay Menz has a huge problem and it isn’t Al Franken grabbing her ass. Her problem is that the next time the guy she voted for as her president feels like grabbing a p*ssy, she can just direct him to her husband or her father. That’s right. I am closing by going straight old-school, caveman, Mad Men culture warrior on this progressive blog: Sexual harassment, assault and misconduct would be drastically reduced if men kicked other men’s asses for bothering women that belong to them and let the chips fall. Period. Yes, I realize the limitations of such a strategy (if it can even be called a strategy) but its about shifting the cultural Zietgeist. If so many men weren’t such p*ssies these days, men in power would not feel free to be such d*cks.
So sorry, Ms. Phillips, Senator Al Franken is staying in the Senate until the voters of Minnesota say otherwise and he is going to be just fine- unless of course he decides to grab one of mine. Then he’ll have to deal with me.