GOP Targets Al Franken Over Playboy Column

Tom Hymes
MINNESOTA — ABC News reported last week that the Minnesota Senate race has taken a decided turn toward the prurient after the Minnesota Republican Party released a letter Thursday from six prominent GOP women that called on Democratic front-runner Al Franken to apologize for a 2000 article he wrote in Playboy Magazine.

The article, titled "Porn-O-Rama!" was a satiric piece in which Franken "wrote about visiting a made-up sex institute where he takes part in sexual acts with humans and machines."

The letter, titled "Republican Women Leaders Call on Al Franken to Apologize for Demeaning & Degrading Playboy Column," accuses Franken of exhibiting a "pattern in your writings and words that seem to suggest you believe you can continue to represent women as playthings and objects and then scurry behind the defense that it is simply 'comedy' or 'satire.'"

It is signed by Rep. Laura Brod, Dr. Laura Dean, Sen. Michelle Fischbach, Mary Igo, Annette Meeks and Laura Merickel.

Citing the achievements of Minnesotan women and others, including the fact that "the Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives is a woman," the letter claims that Franken's column is offensive to all women.

"The words and descriptions you write about are beyond vulgar," the letter states. "They demean and degrade women as thoroughly and disrespectfully as any article we have ever seen, and we are horrified to believe that someone running for the U.S. Senate could have written them... denounce this article and apologize immediately."

According to a Franken campaign spokesperson, the candidate should not have to apologize for writing a satiric work of fiction.

"Al had a long career as a satirist," Jess McIntosh said. "But he understands the difference between what you say as a satirist and what you do as a senator."

McIntosh also tried to shift media focus back onto Republican incumbent Senator Norm Coleman, whom Franken expects to face this fall, a necessary strategy for the ex-Saturday Night Live cast member, who has had a very bruising few weeks after his campaign was forced to admit that the candidate had to pay $70,000 in back taxes and fines to several states.

"As a senator," McIntosh added, "Norm Coleman has disrespected the people of Minnesota by putting the Exxons and Halliburtons ahead of working families. And there's nothing funny about that."

Coleman wasted no time leaping onto the Playboy-controversy bandwagon.

"Al Franken has repeatedly stated that his satire is a positive for being in the United States Senate, and that his political satire has been good training," Colemn campaign communications director Erin Rath said.

"If the kind of satire Franken thinks is good for the Senate is writing about children downloading bestiality on the Internet, and repeated jokes at the expense of women and girls, he is out of touch with the people of Minnesota. In the 30 years Franken lived outside of Minnesota, his standards of what passes for satire has changed, but the values of Minnesotans who deplore this kind of degrading comedy have not," Rath said.

But as the New York Times reported this week, "Mr. Coleman might face his own financial embarrassment" in the months ahead as this very expensive race that has already seen its share of copious mud slinging turns toward the home stretch.