Sen. Al Franken accused of forcibly kissing, groping woman | Minnesota Public Radio News

Sen. Al Franken accused of forcibly kissing, groping woman

Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden says Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., forcibly kissed and groped her in 2006 during a USO tour.

    "It happened so fast," Leean Tweeden said on her radio show this morning. "His tongue is wet and slimy ... to this day I call him fish lips."
    In 2008, during Al Franken's first Senate campaign, he was criticized for "misogynist remarks" and past jokes about sexual assault. Read our story from nine years ago.

    Gillibrand: 'I do' believe Franken's accuser

    A Democratic senator says she believes the woman accusing fellow Democratic Sen. Al Franken (Minn.) of groping her during a USO Tour in 2006.
    Here's the text of Franken's entire statement: 
    “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.
    “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.
    “But I want to say something else, too.  Over the last few months, all of us—including and especially men who respect women—have been forced 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.
    “For instance, that picture.  I don't know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn't matter. There's no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn't funny. It's completely inappropriate. It's obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what's more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.
    “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.
    “While I don't remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences. 
    “I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate. 
    “And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”
    Asked for a statement, here's the response from the USO's public relations office:
    "This incident was never reported to the USO. We have no knowledge of it. The report is deeply disturbing and does not reflect the values of the USO."
    Listen to Leeann Tweeden's story from this morning:
    Statement from U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn.:
    “The Senate Ethics Committee should conduct a formal inquiry into the disturbing allegations made against Senator Franken. The account and photo released today can only be described as completely inappropriate.”
    Statement from Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin:

    “The Minnesota DFL commends Leeann Tweeden for courageously coming forward to share her story. We are incredibly disappointed in Senator Franken. As each of one of these stories comes out, it becomes even clearer how pervasive sexual harassment is throughout our society. We must create a culture of zero tolerance for sexual harassment, and that starts with holding people accountable for their inappropriate actions. The DFL supports and calls for a thorough Senate ethics investigation into Senator Franken’s behavior. There is no excuse for his actions, whether they occurred before he was in the U.S. Senate or not.”

    “We also need to do more to deter sexual harassment in the first place. It is clear that our elected officials, candidates, and activists need comprehensive training on what constitutes appropriate conduct, and we have now mandated such training for all campaigns receiving official party support.”
    Highlights from a press conference with Leeann Tweeden:
    • She accepts Franken's written apology
    • Not calling for Franken to step down
    • Said she also got a message from someone who claimed a similar experience, but didn't know who the person was and hasn't called them back yet.
    From the AP: Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer says sexual misconduct allegations against Minnesota Sen. Al Franken are "troubling" and he hopes and expects that the Senate Ethics Committee will fully investigate.
    Statement from GOP Rep. Tom Emmer:

    “Any and all allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault deserve our attention and must be taken very seriously. The American people put their trust in elected officials, which makes allegations against lawmakers especially concerning. Standing up for victims and against harassment and assault is not a partisan issue and I support investigations into any claims against elected officials.”

    USO says Franken complaint not reported to them

    The USO says a claim that Democratic Sen. Al Franken sexually harassed a fellow performer during a 2006 tour hadn't been reported to the organization.

    The USO, or United Service Organization, has long organized entertainment tours to serve military members overseas. Before he was elected a senator from Minnesota, Franken participated in four tours to four countries from 2003 to 2006.

    The USO called the allegation against Franken "deeply disturbing."

    — The Associated Press

    Minnesota Dems sharply criticize Franken over allegation

    Minnesota Democrats are sharply criticizing Sen. Al Franken over a sexual harassment allegation.

    A fellow performer on Franken's 2006 USO tour to entertain service members abroad accused Franken on Thursday of forcibly kissing her during a skit rehearsal. Leeann Tweeden also posted a photo in which Franken is showing grinning at a camera with his hands on her breasts as she slept.

    State Democratic Chairman Ken Martin praised Tweeden for telling her story and said there was no excuse for Franken's actions. Martin said the party supports an ethics investigation.

    Sen. Amy Klobuchar, like Franken a Democrat, also criticized his behavior and called for an investigation. And Angie Craig, a Democrat running for Congress, announced she would donate $15,000 in campaign contributions from Franken to a charitable organization.

    The Associated Press

    Baldwin giving Franken money to women veterans

    Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin says she is donating $20,000 her campaign received from Minnesota Sen. Al Franken's political action committee to a group benefiting women veterans in the state.

    Baldwin Thursday joined with other Democrats in distancing themselves from Franken amid allegations that he forcibly kissed a woman in 2006. Franken also posted for a photo with his hands on her breasts as she slept.

    Baldwin said on MSNBC that "this type of behavior isn't acceptable whether it's from a Democrat or a Republican or an independent."

    Baldwin is up for re-election in 2018.

    Democratic congressional candidate Randy Bryce was also donating $1,500 he got from Franken to local charities. Bryce is challenging Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.

    The Associated Press

    White House OKs Senate review of Franken

    The White House says the Senate is acting appropriately by reviewing complaints against Democratic Sen. Al Franken after allegations that he forcibly kissed and groped a woman more than a decade ago.

    White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says it's an "appropriate action" for the Ethics Committee to review the matter involving the Minnesota senator. She told reporters it appeared the Senate was looking into that, "which they should."

    The Associated Press

    Minnesotans react to allegations against Sen. Franken

    "I don't care how many women, or men, for that matter, come out with claims of whatever against Sen Franken, he has my support, 100 percent." — John Andrews, St. Paul
    "20 years ago Al Franken was a comedian on a USO tour where raunchy behavior was expected. The picture of him showed his hands above, not on, the flak jacket of a woman with her eyes closed ... Now Senator Franken, formerly a comedian, is a serious and effective Minnesota Senator, twice elected. No raunchy sketches in public; no possibly but not certainly suggestive pictures. I support my senator." — Elaine Frankowski, Minneapolis
    "Why is anyone surprised? This is how he acted until he decided to enter politics. He was not known for his 'clean' comedy. I wish this had come out before he was elected. Senator Franken has done a good job of avoiding impropriety so far as I know, but comedian Franken seems truer to who the man is." — Mark Pelham, Buffalo
    "Being a huge fan of Franken, my first initial reaction is to make excuses. It was the times. It was the culture. It was wrong, but everybody was acting like that. If he were, say, Michelle Bachmann, I'd feel so differently. This is where ethics get difficult. I have thought about him as a great potential president. Maybe Klobuchar..." — Jennifer McGinnis, Hugo
    "Photo, childish, he is adult male. Kissing, inexcusable assault!" — Raymond Schmitz, Rochester
    "No question, they are true. His pathetic apology only adds to my long held belief that he's a little bully. He picked a fight with a conservative student some years ago, and I never liked him after that." — Bruce Schultz, Wayzata
    "My first reaction was disgust when I saw that picture. My second reaction was that I wanted to know who the photographer was as I want someone to interview him/her. My third reaction was "Is this the best Minnesota can do. He certainly does not represent me". — Brad Leeser, Moorhead
    "I hope he is treated the same way by the press as accused Republicans have been. I notice today on NPR the repeated statement that it happened 'before he was in the Senate.' It was only 12 years ago! Meanwhile Roy Moore (of whom I am definitely not a fan) groped women when he was in his 30s and the press is crucifying him. I don't care how long ago it was. They all treated women as objects and they should all receive the same level of coverage and disgust." — Amy Anderson, St. Paul
    "Unlike others similarly charged, Senator Franken hs admitted to the allegation, sincerely apologized, and expressed his shame about the incident. This places the case in a different category, in my view." — Kyle Crocker, Bemidji

    Share your insights here.


    Political world in Washington and Minnesota rocked by harassment allegations

    The allegations against Sen. Al Franken are the latest in a groundswell of complaints to surface in recent weeks. Here's a Q&A to get you caught up.

    Minnesotans react to allegations against Sen. Franken

    "I am dismayed that he has behaved in this offensive manner, even though it was quite awhile ago. He has been a thoughtful and alert representative, has done a fine job, and I hope this doesn't cost us a good senator," — Jared Hoke, Marine on St Croix
    "I am sure he did it. I am sure he is sorry he did it and I hope he is a leader in making sure it is well understood by the men in his influence that is wrong. Sexuality is always a possible undercurrent in a close working relationship but should all know by now that it is not a right. One person's amorous intention does not qualify as permission. Ever." — Anita Nelson, St. Paul
    "Only by 'throwing the bums out' will we really change this behavior. Yes, that means Franken and Trump. Society has made excuses forever to support these 'good' men. If we are really an enlightened people lets start showing it. We gave Clinton a pass, we have to stop." — Leone Graf, Ely
    "I am getting a little worried that we are moving into an area where virtually every action will be examined for potential grievance. Men and women must find a way to work together, respect each other and trust that all act in the best interest of the other." — Marian Severt, Brainerd
    "I have condemned Republicans for this behavior, Sen. Franken is no different. He should resign." — Ted Tellman, Rosemount
    "I'm really disgusted about the photo and that it has circulated. How humiliating for that woman. And yet I'm not surprised. He's another male with a big ego who really seems ignorant of a woman's position." — Rachel Ballard, Woodbury
    "I feel bad about the allegations. He could have been more restrained, but he's a comedian and was joking around. Probably not done in the best of taste." — Robert Warmuth, Nashwauk
    "One more questionable accusation in a long string of accusations aimed at political and celebrity figures." — Tracy Skorve, Jackson
    "Deflation. Al has been a hero for a long time. I’ve talked to my kids about him. Now I gotta explain this crap to my daughter." — Laska Nygaard, St. Paul
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