For over a week, President Donald Trump has avoided publicly discussing sexual misconduct allegations made against a Republican Senate candidate he endorsed, Alabama's Roy Moore. Less than 24 hours after Democratic Senator Al Franken became the subject of harassment claims, however, Trump mocked the lawmaker on Twitter. Trump's tweets about Al Franken then prompted responses that in one way or another pointed out an unavoidable fact: the president has had over a dozen allegations of sexual assault made against him. The White House's official stance is that every woman who made an allegation of sexual misconduct about Trump is a liar.
On Thursday, Leeann Tweeden, a news host in California, wrote an article saying Franken groped her and kissed her without her consent in December 2006. Franken has since apologized for his behavior and called for an ethics investigation on himself. However, that didn't stop Trump from taking aim at the senator on Twitter. Here are the exact messages from President Trump about harassment claims against Sen. Franken (D-MN) that inspired those responses on Twitter:
"The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words," the president wrote. "Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps? ... And to think that just last week he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women. Lesley Stahl tape?"
The mention of a "Lesley Stahl tape" is an apparent reference to a New York magazine story that details an instance in which Franken allegedly suggested a joke about raping 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl.
The most notable responses to Trump's tweets were far from focused on the mention of Stahl, though. Instead, people on Twitter focused on Trump's own history.
"'I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her,'" Pearce's tweet read. "'I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. ... Grab ’em by the p*ssy. You can do anything.'"
Another writer, the Washington Examiner's Philip Klein, asserted that Trump's criticism of Franken will please the president's base, despite the allegations that have been made against Trump.
"This is why Trump supporters love him," Klein wrote. "He doesn't care that he looks like a hypocrite given he's on video boasting of groping women & has been silent on Roy Moore. He's just focusing fire on a disgraced Democrat."
Conservative writer David French, meanwhile, responded with a much more succinct post: "This is exactly the last person we need to hear from on this subject.
There were many more responses as well.
Before Trump tweeted about Franken on Thursday night, Nov. 16, the president and his spokeswoman declined to offer a stance on whether Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, whom Trump endorsed, should drop out of his December Senate race in the wake of accusations that Moore dated and sexually harassed teenagers when he was in his 30s. (To date, Moore has denied allegations of wrongdoing.)
During a White House press briefing on Thursday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders instead deferred to the opinions of Alabama's voters. "The president believes that these allegations are troubling and should be taken seriously," Huckabee Sanders said, "and he thinks that the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their next senator should be."
At the time of the press conference, Sanders also declined to offer a stance on whether Franken should step down from his seat in the Senate. Now that Trump has spoken publicly about accusations against Franken, however, the press secretary might well face questions about why the president was able to comment about the senator from Minnesota, but not Moore.
On Twitter, the Alabama Senate candidate drew a distinction between himself and Franken, pointing out that the senator has apologized as opposed to denying accusations against him, which Moore has done.
It very well may be a difference that Trump himself points to.
Still, Trump's criticism of Franken — in conjunction with reports about sexual harassment in Congress — also seems likely to inspire a revisiting of the claims against Trump.
The start of that revisitation may have began on Thursday night, when Trump's criticism of Franken inspired responses about accusations made against the president himself.