Why is No One Talking About the Fact that Al Franken is Married?

“He wouldn’t do it to Franni.” That’s what the writer Marilyn Suzanne Miller, a former colleague of Al Franken’s from Saturday Night Live, said after she found out about the recent allegations that the former comedian, now U.S. Senator from Minnesota, had kissed a woman against her will and had posed for a picture grabbing her breasts while she was asleep. But Miller was one of the only people who had anything to say about the fact that Franken was married when he was engaging in this behavior.

I know we are supposed to focus on Franken’s actions themselves—the unwanted advances, the nonconsensual groping. But spare a few thoughts for Franni Bryson, the woman who has been married to Franken for more than four decades. The two met during their freshman year at Harvard. In a story that Franken likes to tell when campaigning:

When Bryson was a baby, her father was killed in a car accident. He left her mother widowed with five children. The family was able to survive with the help of Social Security survivor’s benefits, and the GI bill but they often went without food or heat. Still, four out of the five children managed to go to college.

It’s a touching story and one that works well for Franken’s career, but one wonders how his wife feels about being used as a political prop while her husband is out putting the moves on other women. Some of Franken’s defenders have pointed out that his infraction occurred while he was a comedian, not a Senator. But the thing about these incidents is that there never seems to be just one. Unless a guy suffers a stroke or some other mind-altering event, he does not start forcibly kissing women or grabbing their breasts when he reaches his mid-fifties.

But worrying about Al Franken’s wife would probably seem too prudish these days. The entire “Pervnado,” as the New York Post has dubbed the fallout after Harvey Weinstein, has been about consent and power. The idea that respect for marital vows should have prevented these men from engaging in such actions is quaint, perhaps even naïve.

Of course, the same was true of our view of Hilary Clinton twenty years ago. We were too concerned with the salacious details of the Starr Report, the disgrace to the Oval office, the activities with a young intern, even the lying under oath, to even begin to consider the broken marital vows. And presumably it didn’t help that Hilary decided to stand by her man. (It looks like Franni is sticking around too.)

But it doesn’t help that infidelity in these cases is always viewed as an afterthought. Marriage is in a state of decline as it is; we don’t need more public examples of people ignoring their vows and other people ignoring them doing it. There has been some talk in recent days about how we need to start making distinctions among the different sins of these men. (On NPR’s “All Things Considered” last week, David Brooks suggested putting them into “different buckets.”). They worry that if we don’t, every man who looks at a woman the wrong way will be fired.

You know what was good for figuring out how bad your sins are? Religion. But oh, never mind.

As well, we should understand that while consent and power certainly matter in sexual relationships, they are not the only way that we judge people’s actions. Leeann Tweeden, the radio host who was groped by Franken, says she forgives him. But it is not only Tweeden he has harmed. Cheating on and publicly humiliating your wife of four decades is also worth notice—and criticism.

Image: By Lorie Shaull (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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  • SamHamilton

    If you look at the allegations made by Leeann Tweeden, while Franken’s actions were certainly inappropriate, I’m not sure there’s much there that can be characterized as “putting the moves on another woman” or “cheating.” The picture of him groping Ms. Tweeden is clearly made in jest. He’s not hitting on her or attempting to get some sexual pleasure from that. And the tale of the forced kissing, again, doesn’t sound like it was an attempt to hit on her or sexually assault her, but some bad joke about their skit. I’m not defending Franken’s actions at all, but there’s a big difference between what he did and, for example, what Roy Moore, Charlie Rose or Kevin Spacey are accused of.

    • student of the game

      You are defending his actions.

      • SamHamilton

        I’m not defending Sen. Franken’s actions. I’m saying they are not the same thing as “cheating” or “putting the moves on another woman.”

        I didn’t bring up Trump and mentioned Moore only in passing (and didn’t say Moore did anything, just that he was accused of things, which is true).

        • Talcum X

          How much would you have donated to blow Bill Clinton?

          • SamHamilton

            He’s not worth $2.

    • EdCrunk

      Wow, what drugs are you on?

      • SamHamilton

        None, at the moment. Anything constructive to say?

    • Bandit Keena

      Lorena Bobbitt disagrees

      • SamHamilton

        Hmmm. Okay. Not sure what that even means.

    • RL

      Sorry but you are not paying attention. Men who behave like this aren’t a ‘one off’, he isn’t just some sophomoric prankster.

      Franken has a long reputation for being a full-blown narcissist, bully and hypocrite. He does whatever he must do to get what he wants, occasionally he even ‘slips’ and reveals his lies by telling us what he really thinks, of course he pretends it’s a joke when it backfires. He is well-known as an entitled, misogynistic, creep who didn’t deserve his first Senate win, he got it through voter fraud. Narcissists are usually pretty smart and excel at saying what they know people want to hear and then doing whatever serves their agenda.

      It’s wonderful that karma has finally caught up to him. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  • Ivar Ivarson

    LibProggy wives understand they have a duty to enable their husband’s libproggy privilege to grope for the sake of the narrative. Ask the Hildebeest about Bubba Bill.

  • Yehiel

    Ask Hillary.

  • glorkohl

    Well, Marilyn, it looks like he wouldn’t do that to Franni after all. But what Franni is going to put up with now will sure make her wish he had been doing his groping in private.
    What a disgrace if she stays with him.

  • LudicrousSextus

    I’m still amazed the gaystapo hasn’t weighed in on Franken’s distasteful comments regarding gays – “I don’t like homosexuals. I was glad when the Pudding (Harvard club) homosexual was killed in Philadelphia…”

    If Rush Limbaugh had uttered that, they’d still be pulling flaming rainbow flags off his corpse.

  • artie help

    Do they have any little Stuart Smalley’s??

  • Talcum X

    “(On NPR’s “All Things Considered” last week, David Brooks suggested putting them into “different buckets.”).

    How about throwing them off of different cliffs.

  • Alicia Westberry

    It is doubtful Franken’s wife didn’t know about his… um… personality. The notion that he just woke up one day and decided to start sexually assaulting women seems rather silly. She married him anyway. You’ll have to excuse me if I spare her no pity. By the way, the absence of the word, “allegedly,” was intentional. There is photographic evidence.

  • RL

    Why a woman chooses to stay with or leave her husband is no one’s business.

    Using Hillary Clinton as an example of a woman standing by her man is ridiculous. She and Bill are a corrupt, mafia-style business enterprise-nothing more. Hillary was more than happy to intimidate and destroy the women her husband assaulted to protect their agenda.