Sen. Al Franken Accused of Sexual Harassment While on USO Tour in 2006
Ugh. Now Senator Al Franken is being accused of sexual harassment while on a USO tour in 2006, by Leeann Tweeden.
Tweeden is now a morning news anchor for Talkradio 790 in Los Angeles, and posted this account of what happened at the radio station’s website.
As a TV host and sports broadcaster, as well as a model familiar to the audience from the covers of FHM, Maxim and Playboy, I was only expecting to emcee and introduce the acts, but Franken said he had written a part for me that he thought would be funny, and I agreed to play along.
When I saw the script, Franken had written a moment when his character comes at me for a ‘kiss’. I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute, or put my hand over his mouth, to get more laughs from the crowd.
On the day of the show Franken and I were alone backstage going over our lines one last time. He said to me, “We need to rehearse the kiss.” I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, ‘Relax Al, this isn’t SNL…we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’
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.
And there’s photographic evidence — not of this kissing incident, but of another incident that happened on a C-17 cargo plane flying back to the US.
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?
Without making any excuses for this behavior — it’s crass and completely unacceptable — I should point out that the photo doesn’t actually show Franken grabbing her breasts. His hands are not touching her. We don’t know what happened in the second immediately after this photo was taken, of course, but I don’t think it’s fair to accuse him of “groping” based on this. It is, however, offensive and juvenile, and conduct unbecoming of a US Senator by any definition.
Franken issued a statement and apology today:
In a statement to reporters, Franken said he doesn’t remember the forced kissing, but said he shouldn’t have conducted his behavior as he did in the photo.
“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” Franken said. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”
Franken released a longer statement several hours after his initial one, where he described a lengthier apology and said he “didn’t know what” was in his head when he took the actions in the photo.
“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. There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine — is: I’m sorry,” Franken said in the email statement.
He continued, “I respect women.I don’t respect men who don’t. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.”
Franken has also agreed to undergo a Senate ethics investigation.
Meanwhile, right wing blogs and media are going berserk over this, as you might expect, because they think it gives them the perfect diversion from the sexual assault and child molestation allegations against Roy Moore. Their gloating and preening is almost as repulsive as these sexual harassment incidents.