Senator Al Franken has been accused of sexual assault
A U.S. senator has joined the ranks of men facing sexual misconduct allegations. This time, Senator Al Franken has been accused of sexual assault. Leeann Tweeden, a radio host in Los Angeles, says that the Democratic senator kissed her and groped her without her consent.
In a post on her radio station’s website, Tweeden wrote that the assault occurred when she and Franken were on a USO tour to entertain the troops in December 2006. Franken was a comedian at the time — he later ran for Senate in 2008. She said Franken forcibly kissed her during rehearsal for a skit, and then later posed for a photograph groping her while she slept.
Tweeden wrote that she didn’t speak up because she feared retaliation.
"I wanted to shout my story to the world with a megaphone to anyone who would listen, but even as angry as I was I was worried about the potential backlash and damage going public might have on my career as a broadcaster," she wrote.
Franken initially apologized to Tweeden but downplayed the seriousness of his actions. “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leann,” he said in a press statement on November 16th. “As to the photo it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell called for an Ethics Committee investigation into Franken’s behavior. In a second statement, Franken again apologized and said he would cooperate with the ethics investigation.
“I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t,” he wrote, “and the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.”
Franken has actively condemned sexual assault in the past. On October 10th, he wrote a call to action on Facebook in the wake of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein. “As we hear more about Mr. Weinstein, it’s important to remember that while his behavior was appalling, it’s far too common,” he wrote.
Tweeden wrote in her post that she decided to come forward after so many women have gone public with their experiences with sexual assault since October. Her story shows how vital the voices of women are during this movement. We hope Franken will continue to accept responsibility for his actions, and that the public will continue to take victims seriously.