What the Al Franken Story Says to Women: The Broadsheet

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! An age restriction limits IMF candidates, Wendy Davis steps back into politics, and the Al Franken story is about more than Al Franken. Have a lovely Tuesday. 


- The Al Franken story. *Big sigh* Let's talk about Al Franken.

The New Yorker yesterday published Jane Mayer's investigation-cum-reexamination of the allegations of sexual impropriety against the former Democratic senator. Mayer, the legendary reporter who investigated the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh and former New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, walks through the accusations about the former comedian's behavior and the tick-tock of how Democratic senators came to call for their colleague's resignation.

There are legitimate qualms about how the Franken situation shook out. Mayer investigates the claims made by his first accuser, conservative talk radio host Leeann Tweeden—that Franken kissed her without consent and mimed groping her while she was sleeping, among other forms of alleged harassment during their time on the USO performance trail—and finds that many of the details don't stand up. The allegations first came out with the veneer of a news story—released by Tweeden's radio station employer—but without the usual journalistic rigor of even checking with Franken for comment beforehand.

On the Senate side, some of the politicians who called for Franken's resignation go on the record as regretting that decision. As Mayer rehashes, many felt pressure to come down hard on Franken while fighting against alleged sexual predator Roy Moore's candidacy for Congress in Alabama. Franken himself says he "absolutely" regrets stepping down—only the fourth senator to do so under the threat of expulsion in what Mayer terms the modern era.

Despite all of that, reading most of the story was a frustrating and painful experience. For thousands of words, Franken's friends wax poetic about the man who's "500% devoted" to his family, with four grandchildren, who suffered "terrible" consequences from a "rush to judgment." While in this case those words are about a man accused of relatively mild harassment, it's easy to imagine them being said about a different powerful business titan or lawmaker. (We don't even really have to imagine.)

The defense of Al Franken in this piece sends a message to women who have experienced harassment and considered coming forward. Your harasser, too, could get a 13,000-word story documenting everything he lost as a result of his own behavior.

In Franken's specific case, there are other details to consider. While Mayer reports out holes in Tweeden's story, there were seven other women who came forward with stories of how Franken made them uncomfortable. The bulk of those claims stand up; what's at issue is whether observers consider the behavior to be harassment or not.

And the big punishment Franken faced? Not being a U.S. senator anymore. While his former colleagues talk about "due process," Franken wasn't actually wrongfully imprisoned or charged. He's just not a senator anymore—something most women who've experienced behavior like Franken's in the workplace likely never had to opportunity to pursue at all.

There's more to unpack here than we can in one edition of the Broadsheet; we haven't even gotten into the Kirsten Gillibrand of it all. Franken's case is unusually divisive (I'm expecting some emails!) and those who worry about #MeToo "going too far" tend to side with the former senator. There may have been a rush to judgment in Congress—but it still feels like a disappointment for that failure to be given the same weight in The New Yorker as serious allegations of assault and harassment.

Emma Hinchliffe


- Age is the limit? World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva could be a top candidate to take over for Christine Lagarde at the International Monetary Fund—but the IMF has an age cap requiring managing directors to be under 65 when nominated and to step down before they turn 70. Georgieva is 65 now; France is exploring how to scrap the age restriction. Financial Times

- Running for office. Wendy Davis is back in the game. The former Texas state senator, who gained attention during her filibuster in support of abortion rights and subsequent run for governor, will run against Republican freshman Rep. Chip Roy. Washington Post

- A new Lib Dem leader. Over in the U.K., Jo Swinson was elected leader of the Liberal Democrats. She's the first woman to hold the job and, at 39, is the youngest leader of a major U.K. political party. She started off her leadership by rallying against Brexit. Guardian

- Never surrender. Hope Solo, the star goalie who was dismissed from the U.S. women’s soccer team in 2016, has filed a legal motion saying she should be allowed to participate in an upcoming mediation for the team’s pay-discrimination suit. Why? Among other reasons, Solo says she fears her former teammates will “surrender” if she is not included. The Wall Street Journal

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: McDonald's global CMO Silvia Lagnado is set to leave her role. Car dealership chain AutoNation has named Cheryl Miller CEO.


- On the court. Cathy Engelbert is about a week into her tenure as WNBA commissioner. Her corporate background and long career at Deloitte will be at play as Engelbert tries to turn the WNBA into a profitable league. In one of her first interviews on the job, she also addressed domestic violence allegations facing players. Washington Post

- The new Marvel. Fortune's Ellen McGirt weighs in on the diversity ahead in the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From Natalie Portman as the first female Thor to Tessa Thompson as the first openly LGBTQ superhero, there's a lot to look forward to. Fortune

- Just keep swimming. At the FINA World Championships (swimming, for the uninitiated) on Sunday, Katie Ledecky lost a signature race, the 400-meter freestyle, to Australian Ariarne Titmus. Used to winning, Ledecky is back in the pool navigating how to bounce back from disappointment. Washington Post

- Style watch. For those who followed the courtroom style of fake heiress Anna Delvey, the take on Elizabeth Holmes's revamped courtroom look is here. An expert on these matters says Holmes—with her new soft waves and turtleneck-less wardrobe—could be leaning into "femininity" to help her win. But a "complete 180" can make jurors skeptical. Elle

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