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Monday, February 04, 2008

Minnesota Monitor Covers Al Franken's Anti-Gay "Jokes"


Republicans hope that by disseminating jokes made by Al Franken, the comedian turned Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, they can undermine his campaign to unseat Republican Norm Coleman. Michael Brodkorb, a Republican operative and sole writer of the blog Minnesota Democrats Exposed, has been delving into Franken's past to find instances where Franken has made light of the struggles of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The few instances he has found have been heavily promoted -- even included in a video for Coleman's campaign.

The jokes have also put off a few GLBT members of the DFL.

At a recent forum held for the GLBT community by attorney Mike Ciresi, one of Franken's opponents for the DFL nomination, it was clear that some found Franken's humor objectionable. Former DFL state Sen. Allan Spear, who made headlines in the early 1970s as one of the nation's first openly gay elected officials, introduced Ciresi. Spear said that unlike comedian Franken, Ciresi takes GLBT issues seriously. Spear cited the attacks on Franken by Republicans using Franken's past jokes against him as a real problem -- and a reason for the community to support Ciresi and defeat Franken for the chance to replace Coleman.

I asked Jeremy Hanson, an openly gay longtime activist who co-hosted the Ciresi forum if the jokes influenced his decision to support Ciresi. He said he agreed with Spear. "Part of the reason I'm supporting Mike Ciresi for U.S. Senate is because I know he takes seriously the challenges that GLBT people face and I know that as our senator he will take seriously the fight for GLBT equality and justice," he said in an interview. "It's unfortunate when GLBT people are needlessly used as fodder for political satire or humor."

With a choice of DFL senatorial candidates, including Franken, who overwhelmingly support the issues important to gays and lesbians, voters have to ask themselves: Is this a real issue or a distraction? Are the jokes irrelevant to the campaign? Or do they tell us something about the man who would be senator?

Some notable jokes being spread by the Republicans include a 1976 appearance at Harvard in which he joked that a campus club was dominated by homosexuals and said he was glad a gay member of the club had been murdered. The Harvard Crimson newspaper reported that after Franken spoke, his smile " became so broad it pushed his eyes shut. He couldn't stand it any longer. 'Put that in, put that in,' Franken laughed, leaning over the desk. I'd love to see that in The Crimson." In other words, he was trying to be outrageous.

Republican operatives are also citing an off-color remark that Franken made about Elton John and a comment after watching presidential candidate Pat Buchanan rail against GLBT people: "No one likes a gay bashing joke better than me, but this was serious." The editing of the clip obscures the fact that Franken was responding to Buchanan's tirade with sarcasm.

Franken faced questions about his sense of humor in late January when he appealed for support of the Stonewall DFL, the party's GLBT caucus. Held at the Hennepin County Government Center, in front of the Stonewall screeners and several audience attendees, Franken retold his Elton John joke. The original joke goes like this:

"Actually, and this is totally true, for the first six months after 9/11, I put three baseballs in my carry-on bag. I am blessed with an unusually accurate throwing arm and wanted more than anything to thwart a hijacking by beaning a terrorist. How American is that?! I imagined The New York Post headline: 'Franken Beans Hijacker: Terrorist Hit In Face With More Balls Than Elton John.'"

Andy points out later in the article that Republicans are being "disingenuous".

The stances of the three DFLers differ considerably from those of Coleman. The Republican broke with the party line to vote for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which was strongly supported by the Democratic candidates and GLBT groups. But Coleman supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which seeks to block gays from marrying. As mayor of St. Paul in the 1990s, Coleman refused to acknowledge Twin Cities Pride, the most important GLBT community event each year. Franken happily marched in the parade that Coleman refused to recognize.

That a Republican operative and the Republican Party of Minnesota are circulating these jokes -- as well as demanding GLBT community members respond to them -- is disingenuous. The Republican Party of Minnesota has an abysmal record when it comes to GLBT equality, and the statements made and policies pushed by the party damage the community. The hypocrisy makes it that much harder to have a discussion of the jokes themselves -- and adds nothing to the debate over the policy issues at stake in the election.

The omission of context further discredits the Republicans strategy against Franken. For example, Franken's jokes in support of the community are omitted. He once joked during a discussion of marriage equality that being gay was much harder than being black. "It's harder being gay -- because you don't have to tell your parents you're black," he quipped.

He also took on former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich over the issue of marriage equality and Gingrich's own admitted infidelity, asking: "Newt, don't you want for a gay couple what you had with your first wife? Don't you want what comes with that -- that bond of fidelity that you had with your second wife?"

I think it was a good step that Al Franken responded directly to this question on camera.


Robert Platt Bell said...

From the Al Franken Harvard Crimson interview, 1976:

"It's not preppies, cause I'm a preppie myself. I just don't like homosexuals. If you ask me, they're all homosexuals in the Pudding. Hey, I was glad when that Pudding homosexual got killed in Philadelphia."

The quote in the Crimson is said to be "taken out of context" or is "edgy humor" but if you read the original article in the Crimson, you can see that there is no "context" to take the quote out of.

And no, I don’t "get" the "joke," either.

And the murder was quite real. Franken was joking about the 1975 gay-bashing murder of Knight-Ridder newspapers heir John Shivery Knight III to the Harvard Crimson in 1976. Franken begged the reporter to put the quote in The Crimson…

Oh, I get it now! Stabbing a Fag! Oh that IS funny! No, wait, it isn’t!

Al Franken is homophobic, I am afraid. The idea that his comments "have to be taken in context" is nonsense. This isn’t "edgy humor" it is gay-bashing, plain and simple.

And this one quote is not an isolated incident with him.

I remember one of his "Fraken & Davis" skits back in the late 1970’s, when I was an impressionable youth.

The duo appear onstage in south seas outfits (complete with grass skirts and coconut bras) to do their "sketch". The "joke" was that Davis picks this time to "come out" on the air and express his love for Al, who spurns his advances.

The overall impression of the act was one of mockery of homosexual impulses, which in 1978, was considered an acceptable form of humor (Johnny Carson loved this form of joke, often at other’s expense, such as his long runnin inneunedos about Wayne Newton).

Hey, it was the 1970’s, and gay-bashing was all the rage, right?

That’s all the "context" you need.

There is a pattern to Franken’s behavior. His homophobia is now nicely masked, but still present.

It should be noted also that "SNL" has been unapologically homophobic over the years. Lorne Michaels never heard a gay joke he didn’t like. Sketches and cartoons like:
"The Ambiguously Gay Duo"
"Bisexual Minute"
"Gays in Space"
"It’s Pat"
"Lyle, the Effiminent Heterosexual"
"She’s the Girl wtih No Gaydar!"
etc. etc. etc.
are all pretty typical of the genre.

If you work on a show like that, and you don’t say anything or try to change it, then you are part of it. Franken was not only a writer on the show, but later a producer as well.

For a LIBERAL DEMOCRAT to act this way is shocking. Has Franken apologized or anything? NO! He just says "I guess they didn’t like the gay joke" (which one?) and says it was "edgy humor" that was "taken out of context."

Al Franken is a dangerous man, because he thinks he is always right about everything, all the time, and he never needs to apologize or change his mind.

And everyone who disagrees with him is a demon or a monster, not someone you can work with in the Senate or draft compromise legislation.

He will be a disaster as a Senator. Even Hillary Clinton learned to get along with her adversaries in the Senate. Al? Forget it!

We don’t need more like him in government.

Left-wing facists.

Robert Platt Bell said...

Of course, one might say that someone like Franken might have "issues" about homosexuality. After all, he never fails to mention that he was once a wrestler.

Just Kidding Al! Where's your sense of humor?

As for the "more balls than Elton John" I just don't get that joke at all. I mean, most makes have two testicles, so I would preume Elton John has that many. And Franken says he brought three basedballs on the airplane. OK, three is greater than two, what does Elton John have to do with it?

It was just a gratutious gay slur thrown in. Not really even funny.

And notice also, how he has this macho fantasy about "taking out terrorists" like he some tough guy and not a putz.

There is something very disturbing about Al Franken, and I noticed it back in 1976 when he did the "Franken & Davis" sketch on SNL.

His anger, which slips out a lot (he tackled a questioner at a political event once) is a little disturbing from someone in his age bracket.

His demonizing of the opposing party is also disturbing - if you are running for elected office, and not just a talk radio show host.

I hope the people of Minnesota think about this guy carefully. Politicans like him, who parachute into a State (Hello Hillary?) have a national, not local agenda.


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