Facts about Al Franken
Al Franken Biography
Al Franken is the Emmy-winning comedy writer and political satirist who became a U.S. Senator from Minnesota in 2009 — only to announce his resignation in 2017 after being accused of sexual harassment.
Al Franken graduated from Harvard in 1973, then started his comedy career (with partner Tom Davis) in New York in the early 1970s. He was a busy writer and performer for the TV comedy show Saturday Night Live (in 1975-80 and again from 1985-95), where he was best known for his character Stuart Smalley, a simpering self-help expert whose signature line was “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”
Franken then worked for CNN, doing commentary for the 1988 Democratic National Convention. He teamed with columnist Arianna Huffington in 1992 and 1996 to cover the presidential elections for cable television’s Comedy Central, and had great success with a series of funny but gloves-off political books, including Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Idiot and Other Observations (1996) and Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right (2003).
Franken was a Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2003, where he researched and wrote the best-selling Lies, a satirical attack on the policies of U.S. president George W. Bush and conservative media (which sparked a feud with Bill O’Reilly). Franken also served as a big-name host for the 2004 start-up of the liberal radio network Air America, a post he left in early 2007 to run for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota’s 2008 election.
Franken, a Democrat, ran against incumbent senator Norm Coleman, a Republican. Franken had a slim lead after all the votes were counted, but appeals and objections by Coleman led to months of delays. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled unanimously on June 30, 2009 that Franken had received the most votes and deserved to be declared the winner. Coleman conceded the same day, and Franken was formally seated in the Senate on July 7, 2009. He was re-elected for a second term in 2014.
In November of 2017, radio personality Leeann Tweeden alleged that Al Franken had forcibly kissed her without her consent during rehearsals for a skit during a USO tour in 2006. She also shared a photo of Franken pretending to grope her breasts while she slept on a military flight during the same tour. The accusation was major news, coming in the wake of similar sexual harassment charges against figures like movie mogule Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey and President Donald Trump. Other women also alleged that Franken had tried to kiss them or touched their buttocks while posing for photos.
Franken apologized to Tweeden and encouraged a Senate ethics investigation into his actions, but said he did not recall the other incidents. Franken told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune later that month that he intended to remain in the Senate: “I’ve let a lot of people down and I’m hoping I can make it up to them and gradually regain their trust.” However, with many of his fellow Democratic senators calling for him to resign, he announced on December 7, 2017 that he would resign “in the coming weeks.”
Al Franken’s resignation speech included a bitter shot at Trump, with Franken saying, “I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office.”