Chelsea Handler defended former senator Al Franken by saying groping is 'not sexual assault'

  • Comedian Chelsea Handler came to former senator Al Franken's defense in an interview with Profile by Buzzfeed News.

  • Franken resigned in January after multiple women accused him of groping and unwanted advances.

  • Handler said "that's not rape" and supported Franken running again.

  • "That’s not sexual assault," she said. "That’s not repeated behavior over and over again. It is a far different beast."

  • She added, "I think you can redeem yourself and I think Al Franken will redeem himself."

Comedian Chelsea Handler defended her friend and former Minnesota senator Al Franken, who resigned in January after at least six women accused him of sexual misconduct, including groping and unwanted advances.

Handler, who has recently turned her focus to activism rather than talk-show hosting, said in a Profile by Buzzfeed News interview on Sunday that she supported Franken running again, and that what he did was not the same as sexual assault.

"I don’t want to diminish anyone’s legitimate claim of feeling like they’ve been assaulted, because that’s your feeling, but I think there is a very big difference of a man putting his arm around you … he’s a comedian,” she said. “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 just, that’s not rape. That’s not sexual assault. That’s not repeated behavior over and over again. It is a far different beast.

She added, "For a person who's been sexually assaulted to compare that story to someone putting their arm around you and being silly in a 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 thing."

When interviewer Audie Cornish pressed Handler on the Democratic party's "zero tolerance" against sexual misconduct, Handler said, "we have to say zero tolerance." But she also stood by her assertion that Franken will bounce back.

"I think he can run again, look who's 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."

Watch the full interview below. Handler's comments about Franken begin at the 7 minute mark:

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