A radio news anchor says Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota kissed and groped her without her consent while they were doing a USO tour together in 2006, something the senator has since apologized for, explaining it was “intended to be funny.”
Leeann Tweeden, a news host and sports commentator, said in an essay published Thursday that it began after Franken wrote a skit that called for the pair to kiss. In the lead-up to the performance, she said, Franken insisted on rehearsing.
“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,” she wrote.
But he wouldn’t let it go: “He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.”
She says when she finally agreed to rehearse, Franken “put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.”
“I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time,” she said, but it was only later, when she got home from the tour, that she found a picture of him groping her while she was asleep.
Franken wrote in his most recent book that it was on that USO tour through Iraq and Afghanistan that he decided to leave comedy to run for Senate.
In a statement sent to VICE News, the senator apologized. “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.”
Mitch McConnell has since called for an Ethics Committee probe of Franken. In a public statement issued on Thursday, Franken said he would “gladly cooperate.”
Congress is already on alert after Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, testified during an open hearing that victims had come forward to her, alleging that they had had “their private parts touched on the House floor.” Though she said she knows of two sitting members of Congress who had been accused of sexual harassment or assault — one a Republican, one a Democrat — she has not named any names.