Comedian, quasi-political pundit and self-proclaimed “house nigga” Bill Maher was the latest to offer some commentary on Sen. Al Franken sexually assaulting media personality Leann Tweeden in 2006. During a segment on his HBO show Real Time, Maher called Franken “a friend,” but also used the Minnesota senator's nonconsensual advances towards Tweeden to juxtapose his actions against the allegations facing Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump and Alabama senate hopeful Roy Moore.
“He did a bad thing and the condemnation has been universal, which he deserves,” Maher said. “What he doesn’t deserve is to be lumped in with Roy Moore. Or Kevin Spacey. Or Harvey Weinstein. Or Donald Trump, who calls his accusers liars, threatens to sue them, did long riffs at his rallies where he said they were too ugly for him to assault.”
Maher’s remarks appear at the 4:50 mark in the clip above. To Maher’s point, Franken hasn’t opted for the brand of categorical denials that Trump, Moore and Weinstein resorted to. There should be a logical balance between the legal presumption of innocence, while refraining from shaming and insulting potential sexual assault victims, while promoting a culture of toxic masculinity. Trump, Spacey, Weinstein and Moore have just shown no desire to locate that balance while attempting to further or salvage their respective careers.
For his part, Franken has called for an ethics probe of his actions. Weinstein remained quiet about the nearly 80 women who accused him of sexual assault or sexual harassment but found time to issue a statement denying he harassed Lupita Nyong’o. Moore is anger tweeting much like President Donald Trump, as he has remained sickeningly on brand as it relates to the 16 women accusing him of various forms of sexual misconduct.
And Spacey literally blamed one of his alleged sexual assaults on the alcohol, while attempting to use coming out as a wag-the-dog tactic.
So while Maher has been a habitual line-stepper as it relates to various matters of cultural sensitivity, he may be on to something here that has nothing to do with the optics of partisan politics that are bound to color any discussion comparing Franken, Trump and Moore.