U.S. Sen. Al Franken and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agree on something, maybe for the first time — that allegations of sexual assault brought against Franken should be investigated (“Franken apologizes after radio personality accuses him of unwanted kissing, groping,” StarTribune.com, Nov. 17). Leeann Tweeden’s account of Franken’s actions has a familiar ring — it sounds very similar to the type of behavior exhibited by partisan provocateur Bill O’Reilly — a favorite target of Franken’s over the years. Hypocrisy knows no bounds.
The public rightly holds its political leaders to a higher standard than it would average citizens — even celebrities, and that’s precisely why the recent spate of revelations of predatory sexual behavior leveled against powerful/influential men should also address the 30-ton elephant in the room: President Donald Trump is an admitted sexual predator and assaulter of women (see the “Access Hollywood” tape).
Trump has a long history of allegations that culminated during his presidential campaign with more than 10 women accusing him of various sexual improprieties. Trump called his accusers liars, and threatened to sue them — which, of course, he never did.
McConnell is absolutely correct: Potential senators and sitting senators guilty of unwanted sexual contact and sexual assault should not be allowed to hold Senate seats. An even higher standard should be applied to the office of the presidency.
That is precisely why a special investigation into the allegations against Trump should be a top priority. Even Fox News wouldn’t allow its executives and top entertainers to remain in place after they were outed as sexual predators — why should the bar for holding the highest office in the land be set lower?
Gene Case, Andover
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It was disappointing to learn that Franken has joined the growing list of public figures who have managed to get away with sexual harassment for so long due to positions of power. But I do think we need to reassess the severity of Franken’s crime, and whether resignation is the proper punishment for it. I’m a little conflicted, as there should be no excuse for Franken’s actions; however, I don’t think that his crimes match that of say, Senate candidate Roy Moore, even though we are treating it as such with these calls for severe punishment and resignation.
And just a thought: If McConnell is calling for an investigation of a groping case, I am glad. But I would also like to see other politicians held to the same standard. McConnell is seemingly missing a certain president with three legitimate rape/sexual assault allegations and zero intentions of accountability.
Nadia Shaarawi, Eden Prairie
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I’m thinking Franken should spend the remaining time that he has in the Senate advocating for victims of sexual harassment. One specific thing he could do is sponsor legislation for people who enter confidential settlement agreements and then are paid incorrectly — i.e., receive “severance” payments instead of “settlement” payments. Those of us in that position should not have to hire an attorney to get paid properly. We should also get additional financial support for the time it will take to straighten this out, lost income on diverting our money to improper taxation, as well as unnecessary Social Security and Medicare payments. Such legislation would provide a specific office where people could go — Fox is not the only entity that paid confidential settlement agreements in unethical and likely illegal ways. This legislation would also help people get a better understanding of how pervasive sexual harassment in the workplace is, provide institutional insurers a more accurate view of their risk, and reveal the lengths to which employers will go to cover sexual harassment charges and the predators involved.
Julie Risser, Edina
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Even though I am a lifelong Democrat and voted for Franken, I am thoroughly disgusted by the recent revelations and photograph of him reaching for a sleeping woman’s breasts. The smile on his face in that photo and what he is doing will haunt me for a long time. I strongly urge Sen. Franken to do the right thing and resign his seat immediately. He can no longer represent the people of Minnesota with dignity, pride, respect or effectiveness.
Johnny Marks, St. Louis Park
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Al Franken has done a wonderful job representing the state of Minnesota in the U.S. Senate. He has consistently worked for the betterment not just of our state, but of all Americans, and I’ve been proud to vote for him.
So it’s with heavy heart in the wake of recent allegations that I now believe he must resign. As much as I have appreciated all that he has done, I cannot square that with my belief in the seriousness of these allegations. I hope, as he has done in other matters in the Senate, that Franken will set the example for what should be done in this situation and step down.
Colin Ryan, Minneapolis
A change to Bde Maka Ska will only add value to amenity
I write as a white person who has been following the Hennepin County Board’s careful attention to the continuing call for a change in the current name of the lake a few blocks from my home.
Upon reading an advertisement from a group opposed to the change (Nov. 16, page A9), I wrote a letter to all of the board members asking them to vote to change the name of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska. Contrary to the ad’s assertion, such a change will in no way diminish the beauty, usefulness and memories of the lake. The lake will still be there as the lovely and much-used amenity of our county regardless of its name. The implication that changing its name is to lose the lake is not only inaccurate but seems to be presented to inflame irrational fears.
Naming the lake Bde Maka Ska highlights our community’s profound debt to Native people for all the thousands of acres that our ancestors literally stole from them. It will increase its value to our county by demonstrating our commitment to justice and respect for our sisters and brothers of color — especially those who are Native.
Mary Martin, Minneapolis
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Absent the current discourse, 90-plus percent of the public would be hard-pressed to tell you the underlying reason for the names of any of our major city lakes — Lake of the Isles being the exception. There are far more important issues to invest our limited resources and energy on.
Whitney Peyton, Edina
WORLD EXPO BID
Praise for Mark Ritchie, even though the effort fell short
For the past three years, former Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie worked tirelessly to promote Minnesota’s bid for the World Expo 2023 (“Pain and pride as Expo bid falls short,” editorial, Nov. 16). Mark struggled valiantly to overcome worldwide perceptions of visa restrictions for folks wishing to come to the U.S. and he made great inroads, but not enough. We all owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his positive role putting Minnesota on the world Expo map; we now have many more friends worldwide. Thanks, Mark!
Philip Brunelle, Minneapolis
The writer is artistic director and founder of VocalEssence.