I want to stipulate from the outset that Al Franken hasn’t actually stepped aside. He has said that he will do it, but he hasn’t actually done it. Nevertheless, it is the expectation and demands that this happen were made from all sides.
But Al has an unexpected (and probably unwanted) ally in all this: Newt Gingrich.
The former Speaker, who famously cheated on his wife, spoke up for the embattled Franken and referred to the pressure on him to step down as a “lynching.” Here’s more from The Hill.
“He’s never faced his accusers. He’s never had due process. He’s never had an opportunity to clear his name,” Gingrich told “Fox News Sunday” when asked why the calls for Franken to step aside were “a lynching.”
“Now a million people had elected him. And 30 people decided he was inappropriate. Now they haven’t decided yet that Bob Menendez, by the way, who has a much more interesting story to tell, is inappropriate,” Gingrich added, referring to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), whose federal corruption case last month ended in a mistrial.
“This is purely and simply hysteria.”
Gingrich defended Franken last week before the senator announced his plans to resign, saying the calls from lawmakers for Franken to leave Congress without due process were akin to a “lynch mob.”
The question of whether it is appropriate for lawmakers to force or ask for resignations from those accused of sexual harassment is one that will have to be dealt with, and surely will be soon. The matter of due process is, of course, hogwash, as they are not on trial but rather being rejected by their place of work.
Gingrich is playing on a certain element of the base that rejects this national move on sexual harassment altogether. It is no coincidence, I assure you, that these remarks come just days before the Roy Moore vote in Alabama.
People in power like to protect it, and right now the people in power, Newt’s allies, have a lot of reasons to say “no” to the very idea of asking for resignations over sexual misconduct allegations. Every reason indeed.
People must be treated fairly and, as Nikki Haley said this morning, both the accuser and the accused have a right to be heard. But it’s far-fetched to call the Franken resignation a “lynch mob.” It was certainly political. But then, so were the speaker’s comments.