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Hirono Calls on Franken to Step Down as “Silence Breakers” Named TIME Person of the Year

Wendy Osher · December 6, 2017, 9:29 AM HST (Updated December 6, 2017, 9:33 AM) · 14 Comments
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Sen. Al Franken (foreground photo) PC: Twitter @SenFranken. Background photo of Sen Mazie Hirono: file image courtesy Sen. Hirono.

US Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaiʻi is among a list of 10 Democratic senators who are calling on colleague Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota to resign.

This comes as Franken faces mounting allegations of sexual misconduct. Senator Hirono released a statement this morning saying that while she considers Franken to be a good Senator and friend, she cannot excuse his alleged “behavior and mistreatment of women.”

A message on Sen. Franken’s Twitter feed today read: “Senator Franken will be making an announcement tomorrow. More details to come.”  There was no indication on what that announcement would entail.

On November 16, 2017, he issued a detailed apology relating to his conduct, that was posted on his Facebook account. *(The full text of that communication is posted at the end of this article).  The post drew widespread attention, garnering more than 14,800 shares and 86,000 reactions, and 22,000 comments.

The news also comes as TIME Magazine announced it has named “The Silence Breakers” or those who spoke out against sexual assault and harassment as its “Person of the Year” for 2017.

In her statement, Sen. Hirono said that TIME “is recognizing what women have always known: there are men among us who use their positions of power and influence to manipulate, harass, and assault women. What is new here is the women.  We are, all of us, speaking out, naming names and demanding that the harassers take responsibility for their behavior.”

She continued saying, “I am proud of each of the women who has come forward, and heartened by the changing climate that has received their stories with acceptance and compassion.  My hope is that this moment for a cultural change will result in women no longer being viewed as objects or toys, but recognized for their abilities and achievements. As regular human beings. Women have endured this behavior, which for too long has been ignored and tolerated. But no longer.”

Sen. Hirono concluded, “We can only create a culture where women are respected as equals if we all step forward and be part of the change by holding everyone, especially our leaders, accountable.”

The TIME cover includes a photo of six women including celebrities Taylor Swift and Ashley Judd, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, lobbyist Adama Iwu and Mexico immigrant Isabel Pascual.

The sixth individual is faceless and nameless in the publication, demonstrating “an act of solidarity, representing all those who are not yet able to come forward and reveal their identities,” according to TIME.  The publication says the shoulder on the cover belongs to that of an anonymous hospital worker from Texas.

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*Below is the full text of Sen. Franken’s apology posted on Nov. 16, 2017:

The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine—is: I’m sorry.

I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.

But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us—including and especially men who respect women—have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.

For instance, that picture. I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.

Coming from the world of comedy, I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren’t the point at all. It’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come to terms with that.

While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.

I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.

And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 15 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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