After months of gradually returning to the public spotlight, former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken (D), who resigned in 2017 following serial sexual misconduct allegations from nearly 10 women, is now back with a prominent public platform.
Franken will host a weekly radio show premiering Saturday on SiriusXM, the network announced Wednesday, with guests including actor and comedian Chris Rock, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and actor and comedian Patton Oswalt.
He will also contribute to SiriusXM’s coverage of the 2020 presidential election, the network said in its press release.
The announcement calls Franken “an important and influential progressive voice, whom many have missed.” It makes no direct mention of the allegations, which included him groping and forcibly kissing women, allegedly telling one of them it was “my right as an entertainer” to kiss her without consent.
Franken’s return to the spotlight continues a pattern of accused or admitted sexual predators getting career comebacks, an opportunity almost never afforded to their accusers.
In recent months, he appeared to have been gearing up for his return, gradually making more public appearances and rallying his supporters through an email list, website and podcast.
Last summer, he told a local news station in Minnesota that he has not ruled out the possibility of running for office again. In July, he told The New Yorker he “absolutely” regrets resigning, questioning some of the claims. Like some other accused sexual harassers who have returned to the spotlight, he failed to demonstrate that he understood why his behavior was wrong, characterizing it as “goofing around.”
His supporters and defenders have argued he was treated unfairly because his transgressions were not as grave as those of some of the other men exposed by the Me Too movement.
Franken’s comeback and new public platform also reinforces an additional problem that emerged because of Me Too: how much predatory men have influenced (and, in this case, continue to influence) our national narratives. It’s difficult to trust someone accused of sexual misconduct to contribute to coverage of the 2020 election, where issues like sexual misconduct and gender inequality will surely loom large.
In addition, it’s women who have often paid a price for speaking out against predatory men. In Franken’s case, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who called for his resignation, along with dozens of her Senate colleagues, faced a disproportionate amount of backlash from Democrats. Some donors pledged not to back her presidential campaign because of Franken’s resignation.
After announcing her 2020 bid, Gillibrand repeatedly faced questions about Franken, getting asked about him in national interviews at least 24 times this year, according to a campaign aide.
Low poll numbers and fundraising forced her to drop out of the race last month — with some arguing that her focus on her record of combating sexual misconduct and gender inequity may even have hurt her campaign.