Woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of unwanted kissing, groping

Woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of unwanted kissing, groping

ADVERTISEMENT
Bookmark and Share
Sen. Al Franken has been accused of a 2006 sexual assault while on a USO tour. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) Sen. Al Franken has been accused of a 2006 sexual assault while on a USO tour. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Al Franken is shown with Leeann Tweeden in 2006 during a USO tour. Tweeden said that Franken kissed and groped her without her consent during this tour. (Source: Department of Defense/CNN) Al Franken is shown with Leeann Tweeden in 2006 during a USO tour. Tweeden said that Franken kissed and groped her without her consent during this tour. (Source: Department of Defense/CNN)

(RNN) - A radio news anchor accused Sen. Al Franken, D-MN, of kissing and groping her without her consent.

Leeann Tweeden, who works for Los Angeles radio station KABC, said the incident happened in December 2006 during a USO tour.

Franken has since apologized amid calls for an ethics probe, and said he will cooperate with a Senate investigation.

She said Franken, a comedian at the time, wrote a skit that featured a moment when his character kisses her, and he wanted to rehearse the kiss, which she didn't want to do. But he insisted.

"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," Tweeden said.

During the actual performance, she turned her head to avoid his kiss. "Franken repaid me with petty insults, including drawing devil horns on at least one of the headshots I was autographing for the troops," Tweeden said.

Also, someone took a photo of Franken groping her while she slept, which she didn't see until after the conclusion of the USO tour.

Because they were in the middle of a war zone, she didn't tell anyone about the incident.

Tweeden said the account of California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who shared being assaulted as a congressional aid, inspired her to call out Franken.

"I had locked up those memories of helplessness and violation for a long time, but they all came rushing back to me and my hands clinched into fists like it was yesterday," Tweeden said.

Franken initially issued a short apology after word spread of the incident, saying "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."

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for an investigation into the matter. 

"As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter. I hope the Democratic Leader will join me on this. Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable - in the workplace or anywhere else," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer concurred with a call for investigation, tweeting, "Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated. I hope and expect that the Ethics Committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment.

In a statement, Franken said he will "gladly cooperate" with an investigation.

"The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else 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," he said.

He said the time is overdue for men to "take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women."

Franken also took issue with some of his humor: "Coming from the world of comedy, I've told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren't the point at all. It's the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I'm sorry it's taken me so long to come to terms with that."

She said in a Thursday news conference that she accepts Franken's apology, but wondered why he didn't apologize 11 years ago.

Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Patty Murray of Washington and Claire McCaskill of Missouri agreed with McConnell about the need for an ethics investigation.

"I’m shocked and concerned. The behavior described is completely unacceptable," McCaskill tweeted. "Comedy is no excuse for inappropriate conduct, and I believe there should be an ethics investigation."

Sen. Tammy Duckworth also said she takes the allegations against Franken seriously.

Franken, a comedian and former "Saturday Night Live" writer, has been in the U.S. Senate since 2009.

Copyright 2017 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 Raycom Media. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.