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#9: ‘L’ as in ‘letter’ and ... ‘l---’
In pages 283-287 of Lies (pp. 293-296 in the paperback), Franken tells of how he wrote a letter to 27 right-wing and conservative figures. The letter, written in April 2003 on Harvard University stationery, claimed he was writing a book on sex abstinence called Savin' It! (not true). Under this pretense, Franken petitioned the 27 people to share his or her own story of abstinence. The author claimed he had already "received wonderful testimonies" from HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson (a lie), William J. Bennett (another lie), White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer (yup, another lie), Cardinal Egan (are you counting the lies?), Senator Rick Santorum (lie), and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice (lie).1
The second half of the letter was a hard sell to elicit replies. "I have found that kids respond best to total honesty ... Be serious! ... Kids can sense a phony a mile away."
One of the letters he sent, addressed to Attorney General John Ashcroft, was reprinted in his book on pages 285-286.
In the weeks following the release of his book, a couple of interviewers, rightfully so, took issue with the fact that Franken had authored a book entitled Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, yet he had sent out an entirely phony letter. CNN’s Paula Zahn was one reporter who called him on it. She interviewed Franken on her show Paula Zahn Now on August 25, 2003. Read this. It’s fun!
: You wrote a letter to Attorney General Ashcroft, 27 others. [author’s note: the total number of letters was actually 27.]
Zahn: You said you were writing a book on abstinence and you wanted to use them as role models. You sent it on Harvard University stationery.
Franken: Well, yes.
Zahn: Wasn’t that all a lie?
Franken: It was a joke. I was talking about – OK – here is what it was. It was –
Zahn: Wait, it may have been a joke, too, but would you concede that that was a lie?
Franken: Yes, but it was about – here is what it was. It was saying, "Dear Attorney General Ashcroft, I’m at Harvard writing a book called – on abstinence-only education called Savin’ It. And don’t you think it is time that kids had abstinence heroes? And I would like your abstinence story."
Zahn: So the folks who are saying out there, what credibility does Al Franken have when it comes to the issue of lying. He just got caught with his finger in the cookie jar.
Franken: I think if you look at it in the context of the book, it was – I’m a satirist. And it was satirical. And I think that if you read the letter, you saw what the purpose of the letter was, which is, that these people who push – abstinence-only sex ed doesn’t work. It –
Zahn: Of course, you have seen people come out from various organizations say that you’re absolutely wrong on that one, but we don’t have enough time to have a debate on that.2
Woops. Look at Franken’s last remarks. In the span of about 5 seconds, the letters went from being a "joke" and "satirical" to something totally different, an effort to exclaim "abstinence-only sex ed doesn’t work." You'd think the guy would want to get his stories straight before he hits the press tour!
Well, which is it, Al? Were the letters obviously a prank? Or were the letters a clear indication that its recipients are hypocrites?
By the way, Franken writes on page 354 (p. 363 of the paperback) of Lies, "[L]ying is when you intentionally deceive." He’s right about that!
1 Apologies to Michelle Malkin, “What’s so funny about abstinence, Al Franken?,” Creators Syndicate, Inc, August 22, 2003.
2 Paula Zahn Now, CNN, broadcast on August 25, 2003.