Former comedy writer and performer with Saturday Night Live
His 2008 Senate election victory was marred by suspicions of voter fraud.
Alan Stuart Franken was born in May 1951 in New York City and was raised in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. In 1973 he graduated from Harvard College with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He went on to become a writer (and an occasional performer) on the television comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL) from 1975 to 1980 and again from 1985 to 1995. He also worked as a movie-script writer and made cameo appearances in several films, most notably Trading Places (1983) and The Manchurian Candidate (2004).
Describing himself as a "proud liberal," Franken detests conservatives and Republicans, whom he views as “racists.” At a black-tie dinner in Washington, DC, Franken approached George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove, whom he had never met before, and told him: "I'm Al Franken. I hate you, and you hate me."
Franken also commonly characterizes conservatives as "liars." At the Chicago book Expo in June 2003, for instance, he walked up to TV/radio host Bill O’Reilly and called him a liar. Not long after news of Rush Limbaugh’s addiction to the prescription drug OxyContin was made public that same year, Franken opined that the talk-show host lacked the honesty required to successfully complete a 12-step substance-abuse program.
Franken says that conservatives use “the media apparatus” to spread “filth, sleaze, and bile” throughout the United States. According to Franken, Republicans “hurt black people and help rich people, who tend, again generally, to be white.” The Republican Party, he elaborates, is the ideological dwelling place of “Southern bigots.”
Characterizing America at large as a racist nation, Franken depicts white employers as bigots with an aversion to hiring black workers. Over the course of his involvement in the television, radio, film, and book-publishing industries between 1975 and 2005, Franken himself was directly or indirectly responsible for the hiring of at least 112 people; only one was black.
Franken has authored five books, three of which reached the #1 position on the New York Times bestseller list. His most popular titles were Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations (1996); Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right (2003); and The Truth, with Jokes (2005), wherein he wrote: “Republicans are shameless d**ks. No, that’s not fair. Republican politicians are shameless d**ks.”
Franken has been a friend and adviser to Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Al Gore. On one occasion he stated that he was in "Bill Clinton's pocket," adding that he considered Clinton the greatest president of his lifetime.In April 2003, Franken, while serving as a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, wrote fake letters on Harvard stationary to 29 high-profile advocates of abstinence-only sex education -- among them, Attorney General John Ashcroft and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice -- asking them to share their own personal “abstinence experiences” for an inspirational book for teens to be called Savin’ It! Franken’s targets saw through the ruse, however, and some complained to Harvard, leading Franken to issue a less-than-gracious apology.
In early 2004 Franken was hired to host a daily talk show on Air America Radio. On that program he regularly blasted President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for supposedly having authorized the prisoner-abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In 2005 Franken became a contributing blogger at the Huffington Post. He continued to host his radio program through February 14, 2007. In the last segment of the final show, he announced that he would be running for a United States Senate seat (representing Minnesota) against incumbent Republican Norm Coleman.
Once Franken became a candidate in 2007, critics and news reporters raised questions about financial scandals of his past. It was learned, for example, that from 2002 to 2005 Franken's corporation had failed to carry the required workers' compensation insurance for its employees in New York State, and that Franken had repeatedly ignored communications about the matter from New York officials. But now that he was seeking public office, Franken paid a $25,000 fine to New York State in an effort to put the issue to rest.
Franken's 2008 Senate race against Coleman was hotly contested and extremely close. It was also marred by what journalist Matthew Vadum called "appalling irregularities that characterized both the initial and subsequent vote-counting." The morning after the election, Coleman led Franken by 725 votes. But Franken refused to concede, and the thin margin triggered an automatic recount. As ACORN-aligned Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (who had won his own office with the help of funding from the Secretary of State Project) presided over the recount process, Coleman's lead gradually vanished due to a host of mysterious, newly discovered votes that almost invariably benefited Franken. A detailed account of these developments can found here. By the time the recount (and a court challenge by Coleman) had ended in April 2009, Franken held a 312-vote lead.
On June 30, 2009, after the Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously rejected his lawsuit, Coleman officially conceded and Franken was declared the victor.
In 2010, the organization Minnesota Majority -- which favors "limited government, lower taxes, parental rights, free markets, protecting our borders and a strong national defense" -- issued the results of a study which found that at least 341 convicted felons (mostly in Minneapolis–St. Paul) had voted illegally in the Fraken-Coleman election.
For an overview of Franken’s positions on various key issues, click here.
For a more in-depth look at Senator Franken's politics, agendas, and worldviews, see his Expanded Profile.
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