- The Washington Times - Monday, August 20, 2018

Comedian and liberal activist Chelsea Handler came to the defense of disgraced former Sen. Al Franken on Sunday, arguing that groping does not constitute sexual assault.

In defending Mr. Franken against numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, Ms. Handler admitted during an interview with Buzzfeed News that she’s grabbed people’s genitals “many times” in photographs before and didn’t think that should be considered sexual assault.

“I don’t want to diminish anyone’s legitimate claim of feeling like they’ve been assaulted, because that’s your feeling,” she said. “But I think there is a very big difference of a man putting his arm around you — he’s a comedian, I’ve touched people’s breasts and genitals I can’t imagine how many times in photos. That doesn’t excuse it, but that’s something, that’s not rape. That’s not sexual assault, and it’s not repeated behavior over and over again.”

Mr. Franken, a former “Saturday Night Live” cast member, resigned in December after several women accused him of sexual misconduct, including unwanted touching and kissing. One of the accusers, Leeann Tweeden, published a photo of Mr. Franken pretending to grab her breasts while she was asleep aboard a plane for a USO tour. Other women accused the former senator of touching their breasts or buttocks while posing for photos.

Ms. Handler, who claimed to be a victim of sexual assault herself, said Mr. Franken’s behavior was a “far different beast” than rape.

“For a person who’s been sexually assaulted, to compare that story to someone putting their arm around you and being silly in a picture, which is what I believe Al Franken was doing, I know him and that’s something he would do — obviously he’ll never do it again — but I don’t think those are the same things,” she said.

Ms. Handler said she wants the Minnesota Democrat to run for public office again.

“I think he can probably run again, I mean look who is running the country, ya know what I mean?” she said. “So I think you can redeem yourself and I think Al Franken will redeem himself. He’s devoted to politics and he was a great champion of women and marginalized communities, so I do hope he runs again.”

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