Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) released a long apology after a radio host and former model accused him of “aggressively” sticking his tongue in her mouth after pressuring her to kiss him during a skit rehearsal and groping her breasts while they were both on a United Service Organizations tour in 2006.
After sharing her interaction with the senator in a bombshell account, Leeann Tweeden said she was empowered to share her story after Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) stated that she was targeted by sexual misconduct as a Congressional aide. Speier also revealed that there were some sitting members of Congress that engaged in sexual harassment.
Hours after the account became public, Franken released a statement through Politico where he apologized 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.”
Franken said he felt “ashamed” of his behavior as he “respect[ed] women” and did not “respect men who don’t.” He also praised victims of sexual misconduct for coming forward.
He addressed a picture taken of himself with his hands on Tweeden’s breasts as she slept.
“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,” he said. “It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture.”
He also apologized for “offensive” material he produced while he was a comedian, though he stated in another part of his statement that he didn’t “remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called on the Ethics Committee to investigate the matter, stating “harassment and assault are completely unacceptable.”
“I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate,” Franken added.
He concluded his statement by saying,
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.
Fellow Democrat Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said that she believed Tweeden.
The revelation of Franken’s behavior came days after several women accused Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct.
One accuser said Moore touched her over her underwear and tried to force her to touch his genitals when she was 14 and he was 32. The other accusers were “between the ages of 16 and 18, and [Moore] was in his early 30s.”
Following the revelations of Moore’s of inappropriate conduct, several of his would-be Senate colleagues and other prominent Republicans asked that he “step aside.”