Al Franken was the victim of a right-wing hit job that led to his resignation following sexual harassment accusations, according to an exhaustive investigation, confirming an IM report that raised red flags about his accuser Leann Tweeden last year.
Tweeden, a former Playboy model, charged in November that Franken sexually harassed her during a 2006 USO tour of Iraq.
But she immediately raised red flags because of her background as a right-wing talking head and Sean Hannity protege. The Fox News commentator traffics in fake news and right-wing conspiracy theories.
One of the red flags was also hoisted by right-wing political operative Roger Stone, who Tweeted about Tweeden’s plans to make the accusations hours before she went public, suggesting she was part of an orchestrated campaign.
Now new evidence has surfaced that adds further credence to allegations that Tweeden exaggerated her interaction with Franken at the comedy show to torpedo his Senate career.
According a report by Unhack the Vote, “known alt-right mouthpieces were primed to spread anti-Franken allegations as soon as Tweeden made them.”
The messages were spread via thousands of posts on Twitter that caused the #alfranken and #frankenfondles hashtags to trend heavily.
As it turns out, the campaign was amplified by a sophisticated overseas bot network that generated thousands of fake Tweets.
The IM report not only raised suspicions about Tweeden’s motives, but also raised concerns that mainstream media outlets were reporting Tweeden’s claims without substantiating or challenging them.
The story on which the IM report was based, written by David Fagin, first appeared in The Huffington Post, but was pulled almost immediately after it was published.
The Franken story broke at the height of allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, other film industry honchos, media personalities and politicians, including Alabama GOP candidate Roy Moore.
Franken was swept up in the #MeToo hysteria and a number of Democratic colleagues called for his resignation, despite the nature of the charges against him.
As it turns out, much of the Franken “hysteria” was generated by a group of Japanese-based fake new sites created only a day before Tweeden went public.
Michael Cernovich,, an alt-right social media purveyor of fake news and conspiracy theories, also joined the chorus along with his followers.
Infowars and Breitbart to The Hill and right-wing radio station KABC-LA, where Tweeden hosts a radio show also promoted the allegations nonstop.
Russia Intelligence operations got into the act shortly afterward with an army of 600 bots. By Nov. 17, “Al Franken” was trending.
Of note, “We estimate dozens of hours of initial development time and at least one person working full time to produce and distribute content,” a researcher told Newsweek.
“Additionally it’s likely that an existing bot farm of compromised computers is basically being rented as a distributed host for these accounts,” the researcher said.
That botnet is still active with about 400 accounts, according to the report.
Senate Democrats, lead by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), took the bait, denying Franken the Ethics Committee investigation he asked for.
The alt-right has “an unprecedented ability to taint free discourse with false and biased information. Its destructive capabilities cannot be understated,” according to the report.
Franken resigned on Jan. 2.
Footnote: Stone has since been banned from Twitter.