“I’m going to try to learn from my mistakes,” says the man who still won’t quite admit to making any. Al Franken called a short press conference to reiterate the same talking points he has used since the first allegations of sexual assault emerged. The senator from Minnesota apologizes for the photograph of him mock-molesting Leann Tweeden, and also for making women feel exploited after contact with him, but stopped short of admitting to any specific wrongdoing. “I’m sorry,” Franken declared, “I know there are no magic words I can say to regain your trust,” but it’s clear that regaining trust won’t involve any further admissions:
In an interview with the Associated Press before the presser, Franken also stuck to the differing-memories defense:
Three women allege Franken grabbed their buttocks during campaign events; a fourth woman says Franken forcibly kissed her during a 2006 USO tour.
Franken tells The Associated Press that he’s focused on returning to work on Monday and that he’ll work to regain voters’ trust. Franken initially avoided the public eye when allegations first surfaced earlier this month.
Franken still disputes Leeann Tweeden’s account of a forced kiss, calling it a “normal rehearsal” for a skit the two were performing. And he says he never intentionally grabbed or squeezed a woman’s buttocks.
In other words, all of these women are … not telling the truth, right? If Franken had forcibly kissed Tweeden, he’d remember it, presumably, unless he did it with other women often enough to forget specific incidents. Oddly, none of the media that has interviewed Franken has brought up this contradiction, along with its inevitable conclusion: either Franken or four accusers (including Tweeden) are lying. Instead, they’re letting him off the hook with his non-specific apologies combined with specific denials about everything but the photograph, which is clearly beyond denial.
During the short media avail, Franken apologized for making people feel “uncomfortable” around him:
“One is too many,” Franken said of anyone feeling uncomfortable around him. “This will not happen again going forward.”
Franken said he apologized to Leeann Tweeden, the radio host who published a personal essay on her news station’s website about her encounter with the Senator while on a USO tour.
“I apologized to her and I meant it, and I was very grateful that she accepted it,” he said.
Franken also announced that he would cooperate with the Senate Ethics Committee probe, which is also not new. Franken said as much last week when it became clear that the panel would investigate the multiple allegations lodged against the two-term senator. This presser essentially repackaged all of Franken’s earlier communications while sticking to the non-apology apology route that Franken has taken since day one on the scandal.
One Senate colleague remains less than impressed, and openly suggested that Franken resign now rather than drag it out any further:
Sen. Marco Rubio said his colleague Al Franken should consider resigning from his position after he faced a wave of sexual harassment allegations.
“I think the accusations against him, many of which he’s admitted, are horrifying but at this point he is going to be before the ethics committee and I would say in fairness for the things he’s already admitted to, I find to be outrageous and offensive, and on that alone he should consider resigning,” the Florida Republican told CBS Miami Sunday.
I doubt Rubio will be convinced otherwise from Franken’s performance this afternoon, but Rubio’s not the target audience for it anyway. Franken needs his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill and in Minnesota to keep rallying to his side. Did Franken offer up enough non-admission contrition to succeed? Given how much breathing room Nancy Pelosi gave John Conyers yesterday, the answer is likely to be yes … at least until the next allegation emerges.