CBS Tries to Rehab Disgraced Franken as Victim of ‘Cancel Culture’

The liberal hosts CBS MorningsAl Franken, a disgraced ex-Democratic Senator, was welcomed and praised for his past achievements Saturday Night LiveThe performer had returned to comedy following his career as a politician was ruined by numerous accusations of sexual harassment in 2017. Rather than grill the ex-lawmaker on his treatment of women, the anchors instead tried to sympathetically paint Franken as a victim of “cancel culture.”

“We’re going to begin with former Democratic Senator Al Franken, a familiar face. He is back on stage, on tour as a comedian, nearly four years after resigning from office,”Tony Dokoupil, co-host of The Daily Show, declared at the end of the almost 10-minute long fawning segment. Dokoupil told the tale in a quick report just before Franken had a softball conversation.

He added: “Now, after saying he regrets his resignation, Franken is returning to the stage with a new stand-up comedy show.”

Gayle King was Gayle’s co-host and treated Franken like a victim. “But a lot has happened to you, though, Senator….just what you went through personally. The way you left the Senate, under the circumstances that you did, you must have had to take time to reflect and figure out what am I gonna do, how am I going to do?” Franken replied: “Yeah, it was a bit of a shock when that happened.”

When the Democrat announced his impending resignation in December of 2017, CBS mourned: “The end to a potentially storied career.”

On Tuesday, King highlighted: “But some of your former colleagues have now said they regret their decision to call for your resignation….Have they reached out to you?Are you able to have a conversation with them? And how do you feel where you hear they now regret it, are you like, ‘Yeah, thanks’?”Dokoupil came in to speak: “For nothing.”

Franken agreed that Franken was railroaded. “Well, there’s a little of that….And they all know that I deserved due process and didn’t get it. And yeah, when I’ve talked to them, they’ve been very apologetic.”

Co-host Nate Burleson then fretted that the left-wing politician had been “cancelled” by his colleagues: “I want to get your thoughts on cancel culture. Do you believe that you were canceled?”

King, who is a Democratic Party donor encouraged Franken to run for another term. “Is there any part of you that wants to get back into politics?…Are you thinking about getting back into politics in any way?” In response, Franken confessed: “I’m not right now giving it any active, you know, thought about doing that. But, you know, I’m open.” King followed up: “Are you open to it?” Franken confirmed: “I’m open to it, yeah.”

King fretted: “Are you worried about where we are as a country, though? Where we’re heading, yeah?” Franken ominously warned: “Yes. Yes. You and I discussed this, I think it is a very dangerous time.” After he predictably attacked Republicans over false 2020 election claims, King again eagerly pressed Franken to reenter politics: “That’s another reason for you to join the conversation in an official way, Senator Franken.”

This desperate attempt to rehabilitate Franken is not that surprising coming from King, who whined in 2018 that she was “sick” of having to cover sexual harassment and abuse allegations against her “friend” and former co-host Charlie Rose. The CBS scandal happened almost at the same time as Franken was accused.

This friendly effort to promote Franken’s stand-up tour was brought to viewers by Facebook and Dawn. These advertisers can be criticized by you.

8:02 AM ET

TONY DOKOUPIL: We’ve got Somebody on the show in this hour who may take a few shots. The comedy type, not the alcoholic. We’re going to begin with former Democratic Senator Al Franken, a familiar face. After nearly four years of being fired from his office, Franken is now back on the road as a comedian. We’re gonna talk with him in just a moment. But first, let’s take a look back at his career.

AL FRANKEN [SNL]: I believe we’re entering what I like to call the Al Franken decade.

DOKOUPIL: Al Franken is well-known for his work in DOKOUPIL long before he became a politician. Saturday Night LiveHe was a cast member and writer for the show, which he attended for fifteen years.

FRANKEN: Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.

DOKOUPIL – After leaving the program in 1995, Dokuil turned his talents towards skewering right-wing hypocrisy by writing five books and hosting progressive radio programs.

FRANKEN: I’m not a professional politician, I know I’m going to make some mistakes. And this is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

DOKOUPIL : He announced in 2007 that he would run for Senate in Minnesota.

FRANKEN, I’m so happy to finally get to work for Minnesotans.

DOKOUPIL – The comic by trade was known for being a serious and policy-focused senator.

FRANKEN – Republicans behind closed doors!

DOKOUPIL: In 2017, eight individuals were accused Franken of indecent behavior in the early days the Me Too movement. Leeann Tweeden was the first to claim that Franken forcibly kissed them during a 2006 comedy show. Franken made an apology, but did not admit to wrongdoing.

KRISTEN GILLIBRAND, SEN. [D-NY]: I don’t believe he should serve another term.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS [D-CA]: It is likely in the best interests of many people for him to resign.

DOKOUPIL : In just a few weeks, several dozen of his Democratic counterparts had called for him to resign. On January 2, 2018, he did so.

FRANKEN: It is clear in my soul that no action I took as senator has caused dishonor to this institution.

DOKOUPIL: Franken has resigned, stating that he regretted it. He is now back on the stage, with a stand-up comedy program. It’s called The Only Former U.S. It’s called The Only Former U.S. Senator, and he targets his ex-congressional colleagues.

And Al Franken joins us now. Senator, welcome.

GAYLE KING: Welcome.  

FRANKEN: I’m grateful.

DOKOUPIL: So we just said you’re on tour. You’re The Only U.S. Sen. on Tour.

FRANKEN: Only Former U.S. FRANKEN: The Only Former U.S. Senator currently on Tour.

DOKOUPIL: Excellent.

FRANKEN, As far as my knowledge goes.

DOKOUPIL – And, you apparently shoot at your coworkers. We want to know more about your show. What are the shots like?

FRANKEN: Well, Ted Cruz doesn’t come off well. I – as I say in the show – that I probably like Ted Cruz more than most of my colleagues like Ted Cruz and I hate Ted Cruz.

DOKOUPIL – Is humor bipartisan?

FRANKEN: Slightly. It’s mainly – you know, I’m a Democrat, but yeah, I do talk about some of my former Democratic colleagues as well, yeah.

DOKOUPIL: What made you return to the stage for this moment?

KING: Was it difficult to get back up on the stage again?

FRANKEN: No.

KING: No.

FRANKEN: Since I was little, I have been in comedy. In school, I was a comedian. This was what I did for a living. And I’ve always kind of, at SNL, combined politics and comedy. The show featured a lot political satire written by me. While I was serving in the Senate, I didn’t try to make it funny. I was told don’t be funny when I first got there. Remember, I won – I clobbered Norm Coleman by 312 votes, so.

DOKOUPIL: Resounding victory. Landslide.

FRANKEN: Yes, yes. So I put my head down, and went about my work. But I love touring. This weekend I’m going to be in Kansas City, and then Chicago, and St. Louis. I’m going on a 15-city tour. And it’s just I love – I love making audiences laugh.

However, Senator King, you have been through a lot. You know, to get back on the road – to be back in the public eye, that’s what I mean. I know you’ve got the comedy chops, I know that. Just what was it like for you personally. Given the circumstances in which you were forced to leave the Senate, it is likely that you had time to think and decide what you wanted to do.

FRANKEN

KING: Yeah.  

FRANKEN (And we spoke a bit about it). You know what? This is me sort of returning to my roots. It is amazing to see great stand-ups. My podcast is called Public Policy. It features me talking to Mark Elias and Norm Ornstein on topics such as election law and similar. Jim Gaffigan was the first one I heard, as I love comedians.

KING: Yes, yes, we love him.

FRANKEN: Sarah Silverman, and other people. So I’ve always – I always have loved comedy and I’ve loved satire. I think there’s a role for satire since Jonathan Swift.

KING: And you’re good at it. Some of your ex-colleagues now regret calling for you to resign.

DOKOUPIL: There are nine of them.

KING: That’s nine. Do they have any contact information? Are you able to have a conversation with them? And how do you feel where you hear they now regret it, are you like, “Yeah, thanks”?     

DOKOUPIL: No cost.

King Yes.

FRANKEN: Well, there’s a little of that. But I’m also – I’m a forgiving person and I’m grateful. You know, you don’t usually hear nine former senators say they are wrong about something. And they all know that I deserved due process and didn’t get it. And yeah, when I’ve talked to them, they’ve been very apologetic. But that was four years ago now and I’m really enjoying what I’m doing now.

KING: Good.  

NATE BURLESON – I would love to hear your views on cancel culture. Are you convinced that your life was canceled?

FRANKEN: I don’t know what the vocabulary is. The point at which everything came together, I think, was simply a time. The nine people who spoke out have said exactly what I felt. A Senate ethics investigation is what you should conduct, particularly in the United States Senate. And that’s what I asked for and didn’t get.

BURLESON: Right. Now I’m a big fan of comedy and I’ve always felt like it’s the truest form of free speech. Dave Chapelle’s stand-up has been criticized recently. Are you a fan of stand-up comedy or comedy as a whole?

FRANKEN: Well, I haven’t seen – I’m a big fan of Chapelle’s – I have not seen that special. There were a number of specials that kind of were building on each other and I haven’t seen them. You see, satire is very important. It’s meant to be provocative. It’s meant to start discussions and stuff. So we’re talking Lenny Bruce and Dick Gregory…

BURLESON? George Carlin.

FRANKEN:…and George Carlin, Richard Prior and Chappelle are two of them. I don’t – you know, it’s hard – you offend very often, it’s hard to figure out where exactly the line is. People have different opinions about the exact line. We need to make sure we know what the purpose of satire means. And I it’s an important role and it’s what I’m doing out on the road now. That’s kind of why I’m doing it.

KING: Do you have any desire to go back into politics? You once said, “We all do better when we all do better.”

FRANKEN – I used to say it once. I was actually quoting Paul Wellstone.

KING: Yes.

FRANKEN: And that’s the reason I ran for the Senate in the first place. I was friends with him. That is something I believe in wholeheartedly. When I host my show, I often talk about this. It’s kind of the climax of my show in a way. Which is – that’s why I’m a Democrat.

KING: Do you want to get back into it?

FRANKEN: What?

KING: Do you think about getting back in politics?

FRANKEN: I’m not right now giving it any active, you know, thought about doing that. But, you know, I’m open.

KING: Would you be willing to listen?

FRANKEN: I’m open to it, yeah.

DOKOUPIL: Minnesota and New York

FRANKEN: I’d say – where are you living now, you’re here?

BURLESON: I’m here, I’m in New York.

FRANKEN: New York is fine. You played in Seattle.

BURLESON, I have played in Seattle as well as in Minnesota.

FRANKEN – I believe Washington is an excellent state for running. [Laughter]

KING. Are you concerned about our current position as a nation? Where we’re heading, yeah?

FRANKEN: Yes. Yes. This is very dangerous. You and me discussed it. And we were talking about just my former Republican colleagues, many of whom I was very friendly with, who know that the election wasn’t stolen but won’t say it. And I’ll say to them, “Come on, this is a very dangerous point in our time. You have to say the election wasn’t stolen. Chris Christie, I think, has got a book out and he’s just saying, “Look, the election wasn’t stolen.” And it wasn’t. And – but two-thirds of Republicans believe it. But my Republican colleagues, former Republican colleagues, who know the election wasn’t stolen, finally I will text them back and forth and finally they’ll go, “Okay, I can’t say that because I’ll be labeled a never-Trumper and I won’t ever get the nomination.”

KING: That’s another reason for you to join the conversation in an official way, Senator Franken. It’s great to meet you.

BURLESON: It’s good to see you.

DOKOUPIL – Please return, there is so much more we could do.

BURLESON: Yeah, no doubt about it.     

FRANKEN: I’m back, tomorrow. [Laughter]

KING: Okay.

DOKOUPIL: Uptown living.

KING: Thank you, Al Franken.

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