ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A Los Angeles radio host says Democratic Sen. Al Franken forcibly kissed her during a 2006 USO tour. The host says Franken posed for a photo with his hands on her breasts as she slept.
Leeann Tweeden accuses Minnesota's Franken in an essay on the website of California radio station KABC, where she anchors a morning talk show. Tweeden says Franken wrote a skit for the pair during a 2006 USO tour to the Middle East and insisted they practice a kiss during rehearsal.
Tweeden says she tried to resist but says Franken forced himself on her and stuck his tongue in her mouth.
Senator Franken issued the following statement in response.
“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.”
Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin also released the following statement:
“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.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar also released this statement about her colleague:
“This should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden. I strongly condemn this behavior and the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation. This is another example of why we need to change work environments and reporting practices across the nation, including in Congress.”
Republican State Senator Karla Nelson issued the following statement:
"There is no place for sexual assault or harassment in our society. We must have zero tolerance for these offenses. Any elected official who has committed these acts should step down and resign immediately. This applies to Sen. Al Franken and must apply to all, regardless of party affiliation."
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