Senator Al Franken was accused Thursday of kissing and groping a TV and radio host without her consent. Leeann Tweeden, who has previously worked for NBC and Fox Sports and currently works on “McIntyre in the Morning” on KABC/790 AM, wrote on the radio station’s website about her encounter with Franken.
It took place in 2006 when the two of them were a part of a USO trip to the Middle East, she writes. Franken had written a sketch that had the two of them kissing and, before they performed, he insisted they rehearse it despite Tweeden’s refusal.
He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.
He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.
She also writes about falling asleep on the plane ride home to Los Angeles. The picture in the tweet above was taken while she slept and it was only later that she realized what happened.
I couldn’t believe it.He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep.
I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.
How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?
Franken responded to Tweeden’s allegation in a statement. “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it,” the statement said.
Hours later, Franken released a longer, more apologetic statement.
The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There’s not I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if the the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine—is: I’m sorry.
He went on to say the picture of him groping Tweeden is “disgusting” and likened it to having written jokes “that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive.”
Tweeden said Thursday that she accepts Franken’s apology, but wondered why he hadn’t done it sooner.
Franken also endorsed a call for an ethics investigation into his actions. “I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate,” Franken said.
Such an investigation was first suggested by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said in a statement that “all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault” should be reviewed by the Senate Ethics Committee. Several of Franken’s Democratic colleagues in the Senate have also endorsed the investigation, including Tammy Duckworth, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Later Thursday, Senate Democrats began distancing themselves from Franken by returning money their campaign received from his leadership PAC. Franken’s Midwest Values PAC has given candidates $145,500 for the 2018 election cycle. All but $5,500 of that, which went to independent Senator Angus King, was donated to Democrats.
Missouri senator Claire McCaskill will give $30,000 from the PAC to a “Missouri-based charity.” Ohio senator Sherrod Brown will give $28,000 to charities in his state, and North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp will give $10,000 to charities in her state.