DOCUMENT: Crime

Al Franken In Sorry State

<i>Comedian apologizes to Ashcroft for 'imprudent attempt at satire'</i>

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Al Franken In Sorry State

Al Franken In Sorry StateComedian apologizes to Ashcroft for "imprudent attempt at satire"

AUGUST 20--Comedian Al Franken last month wrote an apology letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, admitting that he was not truthful when he previously sought Ashcroft's views on abstinence.

In June, Franken wrote to Ashcroft seeking the AG's story for "Savin' It," which the performer described as a book "about abstinence programs in our public schools." On its face, the letter (which you'll find below) reads like a joke, with Franken advising Ashcroft to "share a moment when you were tempted to have sex, but were able to overcome your urges through willpower and strength of character. Be funny!" Franken also asked, "Did a young woman ever think you were homosexual just because you wouldn't have sex with her? Be serious!"

Franken's missive, written on letterhead from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, claimed that he had already received abstinence stories from other prominent Republicans, including Condoleezza Rice and Senator Rick Santorum. However, in his July 11 apology, Franken admitted that he had not received those abstinence stories and called his solicitation to Ashcroft, "an imprudent attempt at satire."

The comedian also apologized for writing on Harvard letterhead: "My biggest regret is sending the letter on Shorenstein Center stationery. I can assure you that no one at the Shorenstein Center had knowledge of the letter before I sent it." Franken, who was a fellow at the Kennedy School this spring, added, "I am very embarrassed to have put them in this awkward and difficult position, and I ask you not to hold this against the Center, the Kennedy School, or Harvard in general."

While an embarrassment, Franken's Ashcroft miscue will probably only help him move more copies of his new book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right," scheduled for release this week. Franken was sued earlier this month by the Fox News Channel, which claims that his use of the term "fair and balanced" in the book's title infringes on the network's trademarked slogan.