Last week, when Los Angeles radio station KABC released Leeann Tweeden’s first-person account of what she claims was a sexual assault suffered at the hands of Minnesota Senator Al Franken, it set in motion a very public spectacle that has yet to fully play out. Franken has apologized to Tweeden, asked for a congressional investigation into himself, and so far refused to resign as a U.S. senator. Tweeden accepted his apology and said that she doesn’t think a Senate inquiry is necessary. Since then, a second woman has come forward with a story of inappropriate touching by Franken, as reported by CNN. On Tuesday, the story took an even weirder turn when the New York Post, followed closely by Breitbart News, published photographs from a 2000 photoshoot with Franken and Arianna Huffington that are purported to show evidence of Franken molesting Huffington. The strange twist here, however, is that the person who has jumped most passionately to Franken’s defense is none other than Arianna Huffington herself.
The New York Post, widely considered the most conservative of the New York daily newspapers, drew first blood when they published an article about the photos on Tuesday morning in their Page Six section. Breitbart News, the conservative news source run by Steve Bannon, the ex-advisor to Donald Trump who was fired by the White House this past summer, quickly followed with a story of their own that quoted heavily from the Post story.
The upshot of the articles was that the newly discovered photographs were more proof, joining the original “molestation” photo provided by Leeann Tweeden, of Al Franken as sexual predator. One photo shows Franken and Huffington back to back, with Franken touching Huffington’s buttock and the other has the two sitting on a bed and one of Franken’s hands is cupping Ms. Huffington’s breast. Both articles go on to quote an unnamed, anonymous source present at the shoot as saying that Franken was groping her and that Huffington was uncomfortable and not enjoying the experience.
Unfortunately for the narrative that both the Post and Breitbart are attempting to present, the one person who refuses to condemn Franken for his behavior at the photoshoot is Arianna Huffington.
“The notion that there was anything inappropriate in this photo shoot is truly absurd.”
An article in the Huffington Post quotes Arianna as saying that the two of them were merely goofing around and that accusations of groping or molestation directed at Franken couldn’t be further from reality. Huffington has also tweeted that there is no truth to the allegations.
I think I’m a better judge of how I felt in that satirical photo shoot with Al Franken than the recollections of an anonymous bystander. I thought the point of this moment was to believe women’s accounts of their own experiences.— Arianna Huffington (@ariannahuff) November 21, 2017
Just got more photos from the same “scandalous” photo shoot. Here instead of Al Franken “groping” me, I'm “strangling” him. I hope the statute of limitations has expired! #lockmeup pic.twitter.com/6mjlYbhdvW— Arianna Huffington (@ariannahuff) November 21, 2017
Huffington says that the photoshoot was a reference to a skit she and Franken had done on an episode of Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect and was done for comedy, with both of them being in on the joke.
“I’ve been great friends with Al and his wife Franni for over 20 years and there has never been anything remotely inappropriate in our interactions.”
Since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke a few weeks ago, both the New York Post, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch of Fox News fame, and Breitbart News have been running daily stories of what they call the “Hollywood rape culture.” They have taken a markedly different attitude with the Roy Moore scandal, however, claiming that the women accusing him are lying and that the charges against him are a conspiracy between the mainstream media, Democrats, and those they refer to as “never-Trump” Republicans. Both the New York Post and Breitbart News have been accused on numerous occasions by media watchdog group Media Matters for America of right-wing or conservative bias as well as the spreading of outright disinformation.
It appears that this time, though, they have picked the wrong “victim” to support their narrative.
[Featured Image by Craig Barritt/Getty Images]