When the first accusation against Senator Al Franken came out, you may have hoped that it was an isolated incident. But as yet another woman has accused Franken of groping her, it’s clear that’s not the case. Army veteran Stephanie Kemplin told CNN that the Minnesota senator cupped her breast during a photo op in 2003. With this new allegation, a total of five women have accused the senator and comedian of sexual misconduct.
While stationed in Kuwait during the Iraq War, Kemplin said she was excited for the opportunity to meet Franken, who was participating in a USO tour at the time. Kemplin was a fan of Saturday Night Live, so the 27-year-old military police officer got in line to take a photo with Franken.
CNN noted that she used the word “embarrassed” to describe her feelings during the incident. “And I remember thinking, ‘Is he going to move his hand? Was it an accident? Was he going to move his hand?’ He never moved his hand,” she said. She also provided the photo for CNN and said, “I just feel so sorry for that young girl in that picture.”
Kemplin said that he groped her for about five to ten seconds. “It was long enough that he should have known if it was an accident. I’m very confident saying that,” she said.
While she didn’t do anything about it at the time, Kemplin later told family members and an ex-boyfriend about the groping incident. “You’re immediately put on the spot. What are you going to do? What are you going to do? Your mind goes a mile a minute,” Kemplin said. “Who was I going to tell?”
Kemplin’s story sounds very similar to the accounts of the other four women who have come forward with allegations against Franken. The first woman to accuse Franken was radio host Leeann Tweeden on November 16th. She said Franken groped and kissed her without her consent while they were on a December 2006 USO tour together in Iraq. There is even photographic proof of Franken touching Tweeden while she sleeps. CNN reported that Kemplin reached out to Tweeden two days after the radio host went public with her story.
Less than a week after Tweeden came forward, Lindsay Menz told CNN that Franken grabbed her buttocks when she took a photo with him at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. Franken was already the Minnesota senator at the time. On the condition of anonymity, two more women who do not know each other told Huffington Post that they also experienced Franken touching their buttocks.
Franken previously stated that he would give his full cooperation to a Senate ethics committee investigation and released a statement that read, “I feel terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again.”
He has continued to speak about the accusations publicly and returned to the Senate on November 27th, after Variety reported he had missed Senate votes following Tweeden’s allegation. However, Franken has not admitted to intentionally touching anyone inappropriately and, after Kemplin’s allegation, a spokesperson for Franken told CNN,
The CNN reporter who interviewed Kemplin, MJ Lee, wrote on Twitter that Kemplin’s story was “esp. tough” since the military police officer was sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier after Franken allegedly groped her. (The sexual assault is also outlined in the CNN article.)
While Franken has denied any ill intent, the accusations continue to stack up against the senator. And as proven by the fact that Kemplin felt safe to come forward after Tweeden spoke out, there is strength and solidarity to be found when you raise your voice.