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."

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LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 24: Chelsea Handler attends the premiere of 'Atomic Blonde' at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on July 24, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 02: Chelsea Handler Visits 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon' at Rockefeller Center on December 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for NBC)
PASADENA, CA - JULY 29: Chelsea Handler (L) and Tomi Lahren speak during there appearance at Politicon 2017 at Pasadena Convention Center on July 29, 2017 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Michael Schwartz/Getty Images)
TV personality Chelsea Handler attends 2016 Glamour Women Of The Year Awards in Hollywood, California, on November 14, 2016. / AFP / VALERIE MACON (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 05: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Comedian Chelsea Handler attends American Cancer Society's Giants of Science Los Angeles Gala on November 5, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/WireImage)
PASADENA, CA - JULY 29: Jake Tapper (L) and Chelsea Handler at the 'CNN: Politics on Tap: Special Edition' panel during Politicon at Pasadena Convention Center on July 29, 2017 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Politicon)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 27: Comedian Chelsea Handler and honoree Charlize Theron attends amfAR's Inspiration Gala at Milk Studios on October 27, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Tachman/Getty Images for amfAR)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 05: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) (L-R) Actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, actress Shannen Doherty, and comedian Chelsea Handler arrive at American Cancer Society's Giants of Science Los Angeles Gala on November 5, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 27: Chelsea Handler arrives at the amfAR's Inspiration Gala Los Angeles at Milk Studios on October 27, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 07: (L-R) Actress Kristen Stewart, president of the Brady Center Dan Gross, comedian Chelsea Handler, and actress January Jones attend the Brady Center's Bear Awards Gala at NeueHouse Hollywood on June 7, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 24: Chelsea Handler arrives at the 23rd Annual ELLE Women In Hollywood Awards at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on October 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Host Chelsea Handler presents onstage at the 2016 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park To End Extreme Poverty By 2030 at Central Park on September 24, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)
DANA POINT, CA - OCTOBER 19: Chelsea Handler speaks onstage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit 2016 at Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel on October 19, 2016 in Dana Point, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Fortune)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 18: Comedian & host of Netflix's 'Chelsea', Chelsea Handler attends 2016 Social Good Summit at 92Y on September 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Comedian/TV host Chelsea Handler visits 'The Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show' at Z100 Studio on August 26, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 25: Comedian and TV host Chelsea Handler visits AOL Build to discuss the new season of her hit Netflix show, 'Chelsea' at AOL HQ on August 25, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 409 -- Pictured: (l-r) Comedian Chelsea Handler during an interview with host Seth Meyers on August 25, 2016 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 25: Chelsea Handler seen out in Manhattan on August 25, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Robert Kamau/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 02: Comedian Chelsea Handler attends the Television Academy's 70th Anniversary Gala on June 2, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/WireImage)
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - MAY 19: Chelsea Handler visits 'Extra' at Universal Studios Hollywood on May 19, 2016 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 14: Chelsea Handler attends the Netflix's Rebels and Rule Breakers Luncheon and Panel Celebrating the Women of Netflix at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on May 14, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - MAY 15: New York Times bestselling author Mandy Ingber and comedian Chelsea Handler attend the launch party for her new book 'Yogalosophy for Inner Strength' at Ron Robinson on May 15, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Mandy Ingber / Seal Press)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 23: (L-R) Logan Hill, comedian Chelsea Handler, and documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock attend the Cinema Cafe during 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Filmmaker Lodge on January 23, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 19: Chelsea Handler arrives to 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert' at Ed Sullivan Theater on February 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0403 -- Pictured: Comedian Chelsea Handler on January 19, 2016 -- (Photo by: Theo Wargo/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 19: Chelsea Handler is seen walking in 'Midtown'on January 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 15: Chelsea Handler visits 'Sway in the Morning' with Sway Calloway on Eminem's Shade 45 at SiriusXM Studios on January 15, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 12: Chelsea Handler arrives at the Stella McCartney Autumn 2016 Presentation on January 12, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
Comedian Chelsea Handler attends The Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Annual Grants Banquet on August 2, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. / AFP PHOTO / VALERIE MACON (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: Chelsea Handler and Laird Hamilton attend the Premiere of Sundance Selects' 'Take Every Wave: The Life Of Laird Hamilton' at ArcLight Hollywood on September 27, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images,)
Chelsea Handler speaks during Politicon at the Pasadena Convention Center in Pasadena, California on July 29, 2017. Politicon is a bipartisan convention that mixes politics, comedy and entertainment. (Photo by: Ronen Tivony) (Photo by Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 24: Chelsea Handler and Aisha Tyler take a selfie at the premiere Of Focus Features' 'Atomic Blonde' at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on July 24, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 01: Chelsea Handler attends an evening with Senator Gillibrand at NeueHouse Hollywood on June 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 01: (L-R) Connie Britton, Chelsea Handler, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Amanda de Cadenet attend an evening with Senator Gillibrand at NeueHouse Hollywood on June 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)
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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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