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Franken no stranger to upsetting women

Elected Minnesota officials surround U.S. Sen. Al Franken on Oct. 29, 2014, as Democrats launch a pre-election tour. On Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, many women political leaders criticized Franken for reports that he treated a female entertainer inapprorpiately. Don Davis / Forum News Service1 / 2
A 2014 Minnesota State Fair visitor takes a selfie with U.S. Sen. Al Franken as other fair goers look on. Don Davis / Forum News Service2 / 2

ST. PAUL — Al Franken has faced allegations of improperly treating women before.

In 2008, just before Franken won his first Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement to be U.S. senator, complaints arose about his writing objectionable jokes and book passages, including jokes about rape.

The state party convention in June of that year endorsed him with 62 percent support, but some delegates were concerned.

"They don't like distractions," then-state Sen. Keith Langseth, D-Glyndon, said of his constituents. "I'm a little uneasy about it."

Many Democrats joined Republicans before the vote in complaining about some of Franken's sexually explicit and, as U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar called it, "totally inappropriate" jokes and writing during his career. Klobuchar eventually backed Franken's endorsement.

New allegations came Thursday, Nov. 16, when a talk radio host posted a story saying that Franken inappropriately touched her during a 2006 USO tour for American troops.

He apologized Thursday, as he did in 2008.

"I'm not a perfect person, and I'm not going to pretend to have all the answers, but I'll tell the truth," Franken told raucous Democrats gathered in 2008 at Rochester's Mayo Civic Center.

Franken, author, former radio talk show host and "Saturday Night Live" writer, addressed the issue directly, apologizing to delegates for jokes that he said were "downright offensive."

"It kills me that things I said and wrote sent a message to some of my friends in this room and the people in this state that they can't count on me to be a champion for women and for all people of Minnesota, in this campaign and in the Senate," Franken told delegates. "I'm sorry for that because that's not who I am."

Many delegates to the convention said they wanted to hear Franken address those issues before they decided who to support.

Delegate Fred Cogelow of Willmar said before the vote that he could not decide between Franken and Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer. Although he was struggling to decide who to support, Cogelow appreciated Franken's apology.

"We probably all make fools out of ourselves," he said.

Dennis Anderson of New York Mills said today's Senate candidate Franken is someone different than the satirist and comedian of years past.

"That was a different life," Anderson said.

"I wrote a lot of jokes," Franken told delegates. "Some of them weren't funny. Some of them weren't appropriate. Some of them were downright offensive."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.