Former U.S. Sen. Al Franken will perform as scheduled Friday night at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, despite calls from two Metropolitan King County Council members that the event be canceled, the theater’s management said Wednesday.
On Tuesday, County Councilmembers Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Joe McDermott sent an open letter to the Seattle Theatre Group (STG), which operates the Paramount, asking for Franken’s talk to be canceled in light of a new allegation that he groped a former aide to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray at a 2006 fundraiser in Seattle.
Franken, a former Democratic senator from Minnesota, announced his resignation in late 2017 after several women accused him of groping or inappropriate advances. He has since said he regrets stepping down and has returned to public life with a Sirius XM radio show and a speaking tour.
Josh LaBelle, STG’s executive director, said Wednesday that the organization takes sexual harassment allegations seriously.
“We also acknowledge that our role as a performing arts venue is to present a platform for freedom of expression and speech to take place,” LaBelle said in a prepared statement. “We hope events like these will contribute to an ongoing dialogue that will be beneficial for our community.”
STG said it had discussed the situation with Franken and “heard many different views about this appearance.”
The theater group said that current ticket holders who don’t want to attend can ask for a refund.
The new allegation emerged in New York magazine over the weekend.
Kohl-Welles and McDermott, in their letter, wrote that STG should not condone “an event that supports the comeback tour of a powerful man credibly accused of a growing number of sexual harassment and groping incidents …”
Kohl-Welles had said that she would be out front of the Paramount on Friday protesting if the event was not canceled. In a prepared statement Wednesday, she said she was pleased STG would offer refunds and that she hopes Franken uses some of his time on stage “to express real remorse and recognize his actions have hurt a lot of people — people who do not have the ability to have their voices heard as loudly as his.”
STG gets the vast majority of its funding from ticket revenue, but does receive a small amount of public funding from the county.
The ACLU of Washington had criticized the two County Council members, saying they should not be “picking and choosing who can and cannot speak.”
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