In December of 2017, Al Franken resigned from the U.S. Senate amid a slew of sexual-misconduct allegations that led many of his Democratic colleagues to call for him to step down. Had he been in the U.S. Senate at the time, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg would not have been among them.
“I would not have applied that amount of pressure at that time before we knew more,” Buttigieg said Monday on MSNBC. The 37-year-old initially tried to evade questions from Chris Matthews about Franken. “I think it was his decision to make,” he said of Franken’s resignation. “But I think the way that we basically held him to a higher standard than the GOP does their people has been used against us.”
He added that “it’s not a bad thing that we hold ourselves to a higher standard.” Then he caved:
Buttigieg’s answer puts him at odds with almost all of his fellow Democratic hopefuls who were in the Senate during the Franken episode and did call him to resign. Among them are Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and most notably, Kirsten Gillibrand, who was the first Democrat in the Senate to come out against Franken.
The New York senator’s stance on Franken has been used to explain her slow start in the primary. Indeed, on the day she announced her candidacy, Franken’s name began trending on Twitter as Gillibrand was a labeled an “opportunist.” Wealthy Democratic fundraisers have shunned her over the issue, and her campaign has linked disappointing fundraising hauls to “certain establishment donors — and many online — who continue to punish Kirsten for standing up for her values and for women.”
Buttigieg’s decision to defend Franken, even half-heartedly, goes against the “trust women” standard that he laid out when discussing abortion in a recent town hall. And it could make it harder for those who are asking themselves a question one women posed to him at the town hall: “Why should the women of America vote for you over our sisters, who are kind of more qualified?”