Republicans are coming to the defense of Al Franken. Yes, you heard that right.
The embattled Democratic senator from Minnesota, who is expected to address multiple allegations of sexual misconduct made against him in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday morning, received some unexpected cover from several prominent conservatives.
“What you saw today was a lynch mob,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said in a Fox News interview on Wednesday after scores of Democratic senators called on Franken to step down. “Let’s not have due process. Let’s not ask anybody any questions. Let’s not have any chance to have a hearing. Let’s just lynch him, because when we get done lynching him, we’ll be so pure.”
Eight women have come forward with allegations that Franken sexually harassed them over the years. The tipping point for Democrats appeared to come Wednesday after a woman said that Franken tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of a radio show in 2006. The senator denied the latest allegation.
Gingrich, a supporter of President Donald Trump, defended the former “Saturday Night Live” cast member by stating that “comedians often do weird things ... he was doing the kind of things people in the entertainment business do.”
Gingrich also argued on Thursday that Senate Democrats were trampling on the will of the voters of Minnesota.
Reached by email on Thursday, Gingrich called the Democratic backlash against Franken a “fad” and likened it to the debate taking place over free speech on college campuses.
“There used to be movies about lynch mobs and the emotional energy that builds and the lone marshall or sheriff who insists on due process,” Gingrich wrote. “But of course the totalitarian left believes in imposing its latest passion whether on wedding cakes, nuns, its own members in Congress or conservatives on campuses. This is just another manifestation of the emotional passions which resemble medieval flagelante in their desire to atone for something even if it is only the latest fad.”
Fox News host Laura Ingraham agreed with Gingrich in the Wednesday interview, arguing that the decision to cut Franken loose is “nothing more than a political calculation” for Democrats in order to gain the moral high ground to effectively criticize Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore and Trump, who has been accused of sexual harassment by 16 women.
“So I’ll tell you this tonight, be wary of the lynch mob you join today,” Ingraham said. “Because tomorrow, it could be coming for your husband, your brother, your son, and yes, even your president.”
The Washington Examiner’s Byron York, meanwhile, argued on Twitter that Franken deserved some sort of due process, like an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. Franken has welcomed such a probe, but if he steps down no inquiry will be made. The last time the committee recommended a senator be expelled over allegations of sexual harassment or assault occurred in 1995, against Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.). As York notes, the investigation took three years before Packwood resigned ahead of an expulsion vote.
Today, however, with new allegations of sexual harassment by prominent men seemingly being made every day, such a timeline regarding Franken’s case would likely be untenable.