Tonight, I need to talk to you about scumbags in U.S. politics. Unfortunately, there are too many to mention, and I got into the topic with a mention of George H.W.’s bad behavior. This time, I will focus on three guys: Roy Moore, Al Franken, and John Conyers.
Now, I wanted to talk about this before the special election in Alabama, because there is a chance Moore might became a new U.S. senator when all is said and done. Regardless, I will have much more to say, but let’s get into this topic.
What Did Roy Moore Do 40 Years Ago?
Tomorrow, the special election for the Senate seat vacated by Jefferson Beauregard Sessions will be held in Alabama and one of the candidates in that election, Roy Moore is largely expected to win. However, that race has been mired in controversy because of Moore’s past and recent allegations originally unearthed by reporters for The Washington Post.
The First Allegations
On November 9, 2017, The Washington Post ran a story in which details were given from interviews with four woman who said they had meet Roy Moore between 1977 and 1982, when Moore served as an assistant district attorney in Etowah, County, Alabama. The women were teenagers when their encounters with Moore allegedly occurred; the youngest was 14 years old at the time. None of the women sought out WaPo, but were questioned by the newspaper’s reporters after they followed a lead.
The four women were:
- Leigh Corfman, who said she was 14 when she said Moore first approached her. Corfman said Moore offered to watch her outside a courtroom while her mother went to a custody hearing. Corfman said Moore asked for her number and she gave it to him. Later on, she said Moore took her to his house, touched her inappropriately, then moved her hand toward his penis.
- Wendy Miller, who was 14 years old when Moore first approached her and 16 years old when he first asked her out on dates.
- Wesson Gibson, who said she was 17 years old when Moore took her out on several dates that never went further than kissing.
- Gloria Thacker Deason, who alleged that Moore took her out on dates when she was 18 years old. Thacker Deason also said that Moore gave her Mateus Rosé wine, although the legal drinking age in Alabama at the time was 19.
Moore was in his early 30’s during this timeframe. While some of the women said they were flattered to have the attention of an older man, they were later horrified by Moore’s behavior in hindsight.
The First Response & A Poor Defense
A surprising result was how Moore was being called out, even but Republicans. Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sens. John Cornyn and Linsday Graham, and even Fox News contributors were among those calling or Moore to step down. At some point, there was even talk about getting rid of Moore even if he won election.
However, there were outlets like Breitbart News and people like Sean Hannity that stood up to defend Moore.
For much of the November 10, 2017 episode of Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, he talked about the recent news about Judge Roy Moore. In the Sean Hannity episode, the host shared part of his radio interview with Moore.
Sean Hannity had “grilled” Moore in a radio interview. During that radio interview, Moore stumbled when answering questions about possibly dating young girls. At one point, Moore said that he didn’t remember dating teenagers when he was 32 and at another point, he said that he wouldn’t date a young girl before asking the girl’s parents for permission.
After the snippet of the interview ran, Hannity gave his reaction to the interview and invited a few guests. All of the guests, including Geraldo Rivera and trial attorney Rebecca Rose Woodland, said they felt that Moore was guilty and that they believed the women. Hannity was on the defensive for much of that episode, but his panelists stood firm.
Of course, that was not the end of things, since Moore refused to step out of the race and many Republicans who were at first adverse to Moore started singing a different tune. Additionally, there was at least one more allegation.
An Allegation of Attempted Rape
Since the first report came out, a fifth woman came forward. On November 13, 2017, Beverly Young Nelson held a press conference to say that Moore attempted to rape her in 1977.
Nelson said she was 16 years old and working as a waitress at the Olde Hickory House restaurant in Gadsden, Alabama when Moore approached her. She said he was a regular patron and he would ask her out on numerous occasions.
Nelson said that one night Moore asked her if he could drive her home. She said she accepted his offer, but instead of driving her home, he drove to the back of the restaurant and tried to rape her. Nelson said that Moore told her that no one would believe her and the experience left her bruised after she fell or was pushed out of Moore’s car.
Roy Moore Signature Comparison
During Nelson’s first press conference, she showed a yearbook of hers that had the following inscription:
To a sweeter more beautiful girl I could not say Merry Christmas. Christmas 1977. Love, Roy Moore, D.A.
But there were strange notes around the passage indicating the date and location, “12-22-77 Olde Hickory House.”
As it turns out, Young Nelson wrote those notes, but she holds that the rest was written by Moore. She revealed this in an interview with ABC’s Tom Llamas.
For those wondering about the signature, the following tweet from J Barrow shows a side-by-side comparison of a document signed by U.S. senatorial candidate Roy Moore (R-Alabama) and a yearbook signature believed to be Roy Moore’s.
on December 8, 2017, Gloria Allred, Nelson’s attorney, held another press conference. There, she said that she sought the analysis of a forensic document expert named Arthur Anthony, who offered that the signature in the yearbook matched Moore’s signature. Allred also presented papers from when Moore was an assistant district attorney.
What Happened with Sen. Al Franken?
As of December 2017, a total of 8 women, half of whom refused to publicly reveal their identities, accused Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) of sexual misconduct.) These women have all alleged that Franken groped them, kissed them, tried to kiss them, or made sexual advances toward them. Only one of the women has accused Franken of misconduct when he was a sitting U.S. senator, but multiple allegedly occurred when he was conceivably on the campaign trail.
This is a list of the women who have stepped forward:
- Leeann Tweeden, a co-host on a KABC AM radio show and the first to accuse Franken of misconduct. She said Franken kissed her against her will then pretended to grope her breasts later on.
- Lindsay Menz, a 33-year-old woman who said Franken groped her at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.
- An anonymous woman who spoke to The Huffington Post who recounted an incident on June 25, 2007. She called Franken “a serial groper,” but admitted that she still voted for him.
- Another anonymous woman who also spoke to HuffPo, who recounted an incident at a 2008 fundraiser in Minneapolis. Her account was included in the same report as the first anonymous woman. Franken denied having asked her to go to the bathroom together, but he didn’t necessarily deny that he groped her.
- Stephanie Kemplin, who also accused Franken of harassing her while they were on a USO tour. She is now 41, but she was 27 and serving as a military police officer when the alleged incident occurred.
- An unnamed public official, who said that Franken kissed her after she appeared on an episode of his radio show when it was in her town.
- A former Democratic congressional aide, who said she ducked when Franken tried to kiss her.
- Tina Dupoy, who recently gave her account to The Atlantic. She said that Franken groped her at an event held during Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2008.
Since the first allegations came out, Franken has issued multiple statements. He has often said that he did not remember the incidents, but welcomed a Senate Ethics Committee investigation.
Leeann Tweeden, a news anchor for McIntyre in the Morning on TalkRadio 790 KABC in Los Angeles, talked about her experience on a USO tour. The December 2006 tour featured her, country music artists Darrly Workly, Mark Willis, Keni Thomas, some Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, and comedian Al Franken as the headliner. Tweeden thought she would only be asked the emcee during the two-week tour, but Franken had other plans.
Al Franken approached Leeann Tweeden and he told her that he had written a skit with her. She agreed to it, but when she read the script, she saw there was a kiss. Tweeden only planned to turn her head or put her hand in Franken’s face when that part came up, but he insisted that they practice that part. Tweeden laughed it off at first, but Franken was persistent.
When Tweeden broke down and let him practice, he grabbed her and put his tongue down her throat. No one saw what happened, but Tweeden felt violated.
Tweeden didn’t tell many people what had just happened because she was afraid what might happen to her if she did. Instead, she tried to act professional and get through with the tour. She did do her best to avoid Franken for the most part.
However, she said she felt some harassment from him. He drew devil horns on a headshot she was signing for the troops. And after she got home, she saw a disturbing picture on a CD-ROM commemorating the tour. As it turns out, Franken touched her breasts when she was asleep and had someone take a photo of it.
Why Tweeden Came Forward
Tweeden carried the anger she felt for over ten years, but she never fully addressed it until now. Recently, on a KABC-AM morning show, Tweeden heard the story of Congresswoman Jackie Speier. Rep. Speier revealed that she was sexually assaulted when she was working as a congressional aide. All the feelings Tweeden had felt about the Franken incident came rushing back to her.
Tweeden said that she finally found the courage to tell her story, as Speier told her own story. Tweeden was also speaking up because she suspected there might be other women who were treated the way Franken treated her.
Tweeden said Franken apologized to her the same day she came forward. When she later appeared on The View, where she read the letter the senator sent her.
By Wednesday, December 6, 2017, over a dozen other senators, including eight female senators, called for Franken to resign. That day, Franken announced that he was stepping down “in the coming weeks,” but he took a shot at Roy Moore and the Republicans who were supporting him.
What About Rep. John Conyers?
On the week of November 19-25, 2017, Buzzfeed News ran two articles detailing allegations against 88-year-old Rep. John Conyers, Jr. The Michigan Democrat had been accused of sexually harassing staffers, carrying out multiple affairs, and misusing taxpayer funds to aid those affairs and cover his tracks.
The Known Complaints Against Conyers
On Monday, November 20, 2017, Buzzfeed news reported that a married former staffer for Conyers was let go from her position after rejecting the congressman’s advances. The woman, who remained anonymous, said that she filed a complaint with Congress’ Office of Compliance in 2014, but that led to a grinding process that ended in a $27,111.75 settlement. Before receiving that settlement, the woman was offered as a temporary employee for three months; her “severance” pay came from Conyers’ office budget.
The claims were seemingly corroborated by other former staffers, including several women and at least one man. Some of the women alleged that Conyers used taxpayer funds to pay others off and to pay for their travel. In some instances, Conyers would have staffers use their time to transport women he was conceivably carrying on affairs with.
The next day the House Ethics Committee started an investigation after the news broke, but at the same time, Buzzfeed News revealed that another anonymous staff had alleged Rep. Conyers of sexual misconduct. This woman, who worked as a congressional staffer from 2015-2016, said that Conyers touched her inappropriately. In February, the former staffer filed a lawsuit against Conyers in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, but she withdrew it after her request for anonymity was denied.
The news rocked the Democratic Party, especially lawmakers who had worked closely with him. Those who spoke up said they had no knowledge of the complaints, but they agreed their needed to be an ethics investigation. Conyers’ case was especially sad, shocking, and disturbing because of his role in the Civil Rights Movement and the fact that he founded the Congressional Black Caucus.
Pressure mounted on Conyers to resign and On Tuesday, December 5, 2017, he announced that he would finally give up his seat. However, Conyers admitted no wrongdoing and endorsed his son, John Conyers, III, to run for his seat. According to Michigan law, the seat will have to be contested in a special election called by the governor.
What Else Was Revealed?
Conyers’ case in particular revealed how U.S. lawmakers have long been protected from accusations of sexual misconduct.
From the first Buzzfeed News article I cited:
Congress has no human resources department. Instead, congressional employees have 180 days to report a sexual harassment incident to the Office of Compliance, which then leads to a lengthy process that involves counseling and mediation, and requires the signing of a confidentiality agreement before a complaint can go forward.
After this an employee can choose to take the matter to federal district court, but another avenue is available: an administrative hearing, after which a negotiation and settlement may follow.
Some members of Congress have raised major concerns with the current system over the years, but the calls for an overhaul have grown louder in the post-Weinstein era. Members have argued that 90 days is too long to make a person continue working in the same environment with their harasser; that interns and fellows should be eligible to pursue complaints through this process; and that it is unfair for a victim to have to pay for legal representation while the office of the harasser is represented for free by the House’s counsel.
In addition, over $17 million dollars has been doled out for 264 settlements in the past 20 years alone. Not all of the complaints were connected to sexual harassment, et al, but it is unclear what has been paid for sexual misconduct.
What Are My Thoughts on All This?
I agree with the sentiment that there should be “zero tolerance” for the alleged conduct for all these men, particularly in terms of holding public office. None of these men should be in office, let alone be (re-) elected. And I am particularly peeved about Moore’s situation.
While every charge should be examined and vetted, we should also consider who the accused respond to these charges. I happen to believe these women after hearing and reading about their stories and hearing and reading about the responses to these stories from the accused and their supporters. Moore and his “team” have been the worst so far, but I’ll have more to say after the special election on Tuesday.
I’ve lost all the respect I still had for Al Franken after Tweeden’s story came out. How could anyone in their right mind laugh off the photo he took on the USO tour after hearing about Tweeden’s testimony? What Franken did to Tweeden was appalling enough, and then there were more stories.
In response he offered an apology to Tweeden and other non-apologies while issuing denials against the other allegations. While he categorically denies most of the allegations, can he really explain why else he’s stepping down?
As difficult as it is to say, Al Franken needs to go. Roy Moore shouldn’t hold office. And John Conyers needed to step down anyway, but the sexual harassment expedited the process.
Any lawmaker who is a serial groper or sexually assaulted or harassed someone needs to go. Who knows how many are guilty, though?