Republicans in Iowa have responded to the allegations surrounding Iowa’s Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Franken, where his former campaign manager accused him of making “several” unwelcome advances toward women, including himself.
On Monday, Mike Franken — who is 64, married with two children — was accused by his former campaign manager, Kimberley Strope-Boggus, of “grabb[ing] the collar of the vest she was wearing and kissed her on the mouth” before she was able to “retreat away” when they met for drinks in a bar in March.
Strope-Boggus described Franken as “old school” and had “50s interactions with women,” which was “something he did to several other women.”
After his first campaign event on Monday, following the bomb report, he dismissed the former campaign manager’s accusations as “baseless” and said it “didn’t happen.” But when asked if the two met, he said they “had a glass of beer”.
On Tuesday, Michaela Sundermann, the campaign communications director for Franken’s opponent Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), released a statement saying the reports are “clearly disturbing” and “victims deserve a chance to be heard,” as this alleged victim cannot be heard. Franken’s prosecutor had signed a nondisclosure agreement, which means she is not allowed to make disparaging remarks against him.
These messages are clearly disturbing. Victims deserve a chance to be heard, and it is wrong to pressure them to remain silent. Franken’s alleged victim must be given the opportunity to be heard and to defend her reputation. Any candidate for office accused of unwelcome advances or inappropriate behavior owes voters a clear and honest explanation. So far, Mike Franken has only issued general denials — in effect calling his own former campaign manager a liar — but he hasn’t addressed the specific allegations in the police report. He has misleadingly said the report was “unfounded,” but he knows that doesn’t mean the incident didn’t happen. This legal classification speaks only of the level of evidence necessary for the Des Moines Police Department to investigate a crime. Because his alleged victim has a nondisclosure agreement, according to the police report, we only hear one side of the story. Iowans deserves to know the full story, including why he and his lawyers allegedly tried to silence the victim and her husband. If the allegations are false, as Mike Franken claims, then there is no reason to prevent his staff from speaking out so Iowans can decide for itself what is credible. Hiding behind non-disclosure agreements and blanket denials is unacceptable for a candidate seeking to gain the public’s trust.
Grassley’s campaign press release also praised a bill Grassley co-sponsored, the Speak Out Act, which the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced last week. The bill guarantees that survivors of sexual assault or harassment cannot be barred from discussing their experiences because of a previously signed non-disclosure agreement.
In addition, during a press conference with reporters on Tuesday, Republican Party chairman Jeff Kaufmann also pointed to the bill that helped Grassley pass the Senate Judiciary Committee, while also stating that his committee made the “strongest plea.” Franken pretends to free the victim from the NDA and give her a chance to speak out.
Kaufmann went on to explain that his committee “isn’t calling on this victim to speak out” because that’s “all her business,” but that the “Republican Party says Franken must release the victim from the nondisclosure agreement.” Kaufmann accused Franken of hiding behind the NDA and “using it as a weapon” for calling his accuser a hideout while still silencing her under the NDA. “There’s something inherently wrong with that,” Kaufmann added.
I’ve been in this situation where I’ve been asked what I think of a certain Republican who made statements like he did and who has been charged, and I’ve stood up and I’ve answered them. The Democratic Party does not. My candidates, my office holders, have been repeatedly asked a question similar to what I propose. I’m not complaining. I’m just saying that in this particular case we should wear the shoe on both feet… Let’s not let him call someone a liar and then silence that person. There’s something inherently unfair about that, which is why I’m calling on all Democratic officeholders the same way they would call on Republican officeholders for Franken to lift that NDA. And… if this victim chooses to respond to her, she is called a liar.
Furthermore, Franken was on Monday supposed to be joined by two other Democrats, Liz Mathis and Christina Bohannan. When they didn’t show up, Franken’s campaign quoted “schedule conflict,” which Mathis’s campaign later tried to confirm in a statement where she said she had “another appointment” that “bumped” Franken.
Shortly after Mathis released the statement, Representative Ashley Hinson (R-IA), who is fighting Mathis in the Second Congressional District, quickly denounced Franken and encouraged the Democrat to do the same instead of conveniently using a “schedule conflict” to avoid to be seen publicly with the Senate hopeful.
“Harassment is always unacceptable and the allegations against Admiral Mike Franken are deeply disturbing,” Hinson said. “A ‘scheduling conflict’ is no substitute for exposing allegations of sexual assault, and state senator Liz Mathis must immediately dismiss Mike Franken.”