Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, once called Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, “the lovechild of Joe McCarthy and Dracula.” But Franken is far more forthcoming about his feelings toward the prominent conservative in his newest book, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate. “Here’s the thing you have to understand about Ted Cruz,” Franken wrote in the book. “I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz. And I hate Ted Cruz.”
The quote drew uproarious laughs at Vulture Festival in New York on Saturday, where Franken and his former Saturday Night Live colleague Robert Smigel discussed Franken’s latest book, a detailed account of his unlikely run for office in 2008 and subsequent victory.
“When you were dealing with being a senator and Mitch McConnell and everything that comes with that, we would talk about your struggle to want to say things that there’s no way you could say,” Smigel said to Franken. “We talked about how someday you’ll be able to write an amazing memoir called What I Wanted to Say.”
“There’s some of that in here,” Franken replied.
“Yes, that’s what’s shocking,” Smigel said, before reading the Cruz passage aloud. (In response to the laughs, Franken added, “That’s a good line.”)
But despite calling out Cruz, Franken said his book did not include as much gossip as one might assume.
“I have to say, he’s an exception to my rule, which is you basically have a rule that if you have a conversation with somebody and it makes them look bad — it’s a private conversation — you don’t repeat it,” Franken said. “But I made an exception with him because he broke that rule, he broke the protocol of the Senate. It wasn’t quite that rule, but he got up to speak and called Mitch McConnell a liar. And that was completely against protocol. So I make him an exception. So I don’t say bad stuff about my other colleagues.” (Cruz called McConnell a liar while on the Senate floor in 2015.)
Franken and Smigel spent the better part of their hour-long chat discussing Franken’s political career — and the difficulty he had being taken seriously after years working as a writer for Saturday Night Live, radio host, and best-selling author. (Despite some early promises from Smigel, Franken did not attack President Donald Trump during the chat.) The topic of Franken’s own political future was broached, too, after Smigel made a joke about Franken possibly running for president. Only a few people in the crowd applauded.
“Well, now we know the answer,” Franken said as the audience laughed. “If, at a crowd that comes to see me, we get that reaction [about a possible presidential run] … thank you, thank you. Believe me, you just saved me two years of heartache.”
Al Franken, Giant of the Senate is out May 30.