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Here’s the insidious role Sean Hannity played in derailing Al Franken’s political career

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The U.S. Senate lost one of its most prominent liberals when Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, dogged by sexual harassment allegations, announced his resignation in December 2017. Some of Franken’s defenders believed the Democratic Party was too quick to throw him under the bus; other Democrats stressed that in light of the #MeToo movement, his resignation was absolutely necessary. Franken’s political downfall is the subject of an in-depth report by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, who describes — among many other things — the role that Fox News’ Sean Hannity played in the media firestorm.

Franken’s career in the Senate, Mayer notes, was doomed after right-wing talk radio host Leeann Tweeden “accused him of having forced an unwanted kiss on her during a 2006 USO tour.” After that, Mayer adds, seven other women “followed with accusations against Franken; all of them centered on inappropriate touches or kisses.”

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Mayer reports that the former “Saturday Night Live” star’s “undoing began with a photograph, which was released by a conservative talk-radio station on November 16, 2017.” Mayer reports that in the photo, Franken was seen on a military plane “leering at the lens with his hands outstretched toward the breasts of his USO co-star, Tweeden…. Franken’s hands appear to be practically touching her chest, and Tweeden looks to be asleep — and therefore, not consenting to the joke.”

Condemnation of Franken, Mayer recalls, quickly came from the liberal-leaning Slate (which called for his resignation in an article) as well as the right-wing media — including Fox News, where Hannity quoted the Slate piece and interviewed Tweeden (who is described by Mayer as “a friend who had been a guest on his show dozens of times”). And the alt-right Breitbart News, Mayer notes, drew attention to Slate’s article as well.

Mayer reports, “The media uproar was further heightened by an impassioned personal statement released by Tweeden’s Los Angeles radio station, KABC-AM, which provided her account of the story behind the photograph.”

Hannity, Mayer recalls, “exulted when the news broke,” relentlessly attacking Franken on both Fox News and his AM radio show. Hannity described the photo as “disgusting,” saying that the Minnesota senator had been accused of “sexual molestation” — and President Donald Trump, Mayer reports, “joined the fray on Twitter, insinuating that the photograph documented an assault in progress.”

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Mayer is an incredibly thorough reporter, and her New Yorker piece features interviews with women who express a variety of views on Franken’s political downfall. Some of the interviewees Mayer spoke to are more sympathetic to Franken than others.

One of the more sympathetic is attorney Deborah Katz, who has represented sexual harassment victims. Katz has also represented Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her at a party when they were teenagers back in 1982.

Katz, according to Mayer, views Franken as a “cautionary tale for the #MeToo movement.” The attorney told the New Yorker, “The allegations leveled against Sen. Franken did not warrant his forced expulsion from the Senate, particularly given the context in which most of the behavior occurred — which was in his capacity as a comedian….. All offensive behavior should be addressed, but not all offensive behavior warrants the most severe sanction.”

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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A look inside the Koch brothers’ secret plan to manipulate politicians — and how it fueled the rise of the radical right

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Democrats and Republicans are expected to spend about $1 billion getting their 2016 nominee elected. There’s a third group that will spend almost as much. It’s not a political party, and it doesn’t have any candidates. It’s the right-wing political network backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch, expected to spend nearly $900 million in 2016. The Kochs’ 2016 plans come as part of an effort to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative candidates and causes over the last four decades. The story of the Koch brothers and an allied group of billionaire donors is told in a new book by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.” Mayer traces how the Kochs and other billionaires have leveraged their business empires to shape the political system in the mold of their right-wing agenda.

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New video emerges of Trump blurting out anti-Semitic slurs

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President Donald Trump this week said that the majority of American Jews were "disloyal" to Israel because they support the Democratic Party -- but that's far from the first time that the president has made controversial statements that deploy anti-Semitic tropes.

The Washington Post has obtained a video clip from 2011 that shows Trump boasting about how great one of his golf courses is before saying that "even these spoiled, rich Jewish guys, they can’t believe how good this [course] is."

The clip was originally aired on the Golf Channel for the show "Donald J. Trump's Fabulous World of Golf."

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Trump snaps after ‘enemy’ Fed chairman doesn’t drop interest rates — compares him to China’s Xi

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President Donald Trump flipped out on his Federal Reserve chairman after China imposed a new round of tariffs in his ongoing trade war against the economic powerhouse.

The president lashed out at Fed chairman Jerome Powell after he refused to budge on interest rates, and referred to the official he chose as an "enemy" of the United States.

"As usual, the Fed did NOTHING!" Trump raged on Twitter. "It is incredible that they can 'speak' without knowing or asking what I am doing, which will be announced shortly. We have a very strong dollar and a very weak Fed. I will work 'brilliantly' with both, and the U.S. will do great.."

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