Judd Apatow Wasn’t Talking About Al Franken But He Should Have Been

frankenI couldn’t click fast enough when I saw tweets about Sen. Al Franken and a claim he forced himself on a woman during a USO tour 11 years ago. That’s because I always liked Al Franken, back to the days of appearances on Letterman, then Saturday Night Live, and then the U.S. Senate. His book, “Al Franken: Giant of the Senate” was both inspirational and entertaining, and gave me hope for Washington, since Franken talked about how personal relationships get built (except in the case of Ted Cruz, of course) that cross party lines and lead to better legislation.

When I read talk radio host’s Leeann Tweeden’s account word by word, I came away feeling unconvinced that Franken did something clearly egregious, let alone wildly awful and out of character. It sounded like an incident Franken might have cited in his book, where he talked at length about the “dehumorizing machine” that Republicans ran his works of satire through during his first Senate campaign. Franken said that some of the material they trotted out as proof of his unfitness for office was indeed in terrible taste, while some was just plain bad. But some was funny, or at least it was in context, and during the times it was produced.

Still, I was concerned. Not just that Tweeden’s version of events was accurate but that Franken would be disgraced even if they weren’t.

Then I came upon this statement from producer Judd Apatow in a podcast with former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. The episode, called, “The Problem of Power in Hollywood” was recorded recently, but before the Franken headlines, and was specifically discussing the revelations about Harvey Weinstein. As more people come forward with stories of abuse, Bharara asked, how should we parse these allegations?

Here is Apatow’s reponse.

It’s very different when you’re talking about one complaint, 35 years ago, and there’s not a lot of information versus, you know, James Toback with 300 accusations. And this is what is going to be so difficult about this, which is, how are we going to handle these situations where it’s NOT 10 or 20 accusers, it’s one person? That’s a very tricky thing and I don’t have an answer for that.

Apatow could have easily been talking about the situation we now have with Al Franken.

This is a new story and one which will be chewed to death in the court of public opinion right up until the next, worse story catches our attention. People on our team are already disqualifying people who voted for Trump, who not only didn’t deny sexual abuse but crowed about it, from having an opinion on the matter. Others want to equate Franken’s alleged unwanted mouth kiss and groping of a USO tour skit mate to possible rape by Roy Moore of girls as young as 14. And I’m sure people will start digging into the past of Leeann Tweeden, who described herself in her account as a former Playboy and Maxim “cover girl.”

Maybe at the end of it all, we’ll come up with a process for how to feel about these things. Surely there is a scale, possibly with Harvey Weinstein, renowned as using his considerable power for the purpose of pressuring young women to have sex with him; Bill Cosby; and nobody’s Dad of the Year, Woody Allen, at one end. It remains to be seen what’s at the other end of that scale yet still firmly on it, but I suspect it might Al Franken.

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