Only days before state DFL Party delegates meet to endorse a U.S. Senate candidate, two Republican legislators on Monday released a list of Al Franken's jokes and writings that they said demeaned women and mocked Minnesota values.
The Franken campaign said that the anecdotes cited were satire and that Republicans are pulling them out now to distract voters from "the mess" created by President Bush and U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.
Rep. Laura Brod, R-New Prague, and Sen. Betsy Wergin, R-Princeton, said that Franken has not yet responded to their request to apologize for a fantasy he wrote for Playboy in 2000 about a Minnesota-based virtual reality sex laboratory.
Last week, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a DFLer, called the Franken article "unacceptable" and said it could hurt other DFL candidates this year. McCollum supported the Senate candidacy of lawyer Mike Ciresi, who dropped out in March.
Brod said Monday that the Playboy piece isn't an isolated matter. "The list goes on and on," she said at a news conference at the State Capitol.
In a letter on Republican Party letterhead to Minnesota legislators of both parties, she and Wergin listed eight instances dating to the 1980s when they said Franken made offensive jokes about women, either in person or in the media.
Among the news stories cited by the two legislators: Franken kidded at a 1999 New York feminist event that Afghan women didn't need any more freedom, and he announced at a White House press dinner that then-Attorney General Janet Reno would perform a lap dance for $25.
One of the other anecdotes Brod and Wergin shared involved a local Franken appearance that was reported in the Star Tribune in 2001. He joked at a Human Rights Campaign dinner that he had asked organizers to pay him for his speech by "send[ing] a girl to my room. And they did. But she turned out to be a lesbian. Great! Next time you do that, could you at least send two?"
The Human Rights Campaign lobbies for gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
Brod declined to say that Franken is sexist or homophobic, but said some of his writings reflect those attitudes.
In response, campaign spokeswoman Jess McIntosh noted that Franken has written satire for more than 30 years.
"I'm sure Republican politicians will spend every day from now until November talking about everything except the mess that Norm Coleman and George W. Bush have created for Minnesota families," McIntosh said.
Also on Monday, the Franken campaign announced endorsements from the Communication Workers of America Minnesota State Council and from three DFL suburban legislators: Reps. Debra Hilstrom of Brooklyn Center, Linda Slocum of Richfield and Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley.
Franken and college Prof. Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer are vying for the DFL endorsement at the state party convention in Rochester that opens Friday. Darryl Stanton and Dick Franson also are DFL candidates.
Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455