Minnesota senator Al Franken has been accused of kissing and groping a woman without her permission in 2006.


Franken apologized on Thursday after sports broadcaster and model Leeann Tweeden said the lawmaker touched her without consent during an overseas trip. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for an ethics investigation of Franken, and the senator agreed to cooperate. Many senators, including Tammy DuckworthChuck SchumerTim Kane, and Richard Blumenthal, are calling for an investigation and for Franken to address the allegation.

Tweeden described that during her ninth USO Tour to entertain the troops, other entertainers coming were country artists Darryl WorleyMark WillsKeni Thomas, some Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, and that Franken, then a comedian, was the headliner of the show.

Franken had written various skits to appeal to a young male audience, and they were bursting with sexual innuendo. According to Tweeden, “Franken had written a moment when his character comes at me for a ‘kiss.’ I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute, or put my hand over his mouth, to get more laughs from the crowd,” she wrote in an essay.

When they were backstage, however, she says Franken forced her to rehearse the kiss. “He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable. He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.”

Tweeden says that she “felt disgusted and violated,” but didn’t tell anyone because she “didn’t want to cause trouble.”

Tweeden claims she avoided Franken throughout the rest of the trip, and thought she had, until she returned and saw a photograph. According to Tweeden, on the flight home, she fell asleep in her kevlar, and while she was sleeping, Franken touched her breasts and had someone take a photo.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she writes. “He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep. I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?”

She describes how she was afraid to speak out about what happened for fear of losing her job. “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 said. “But that was then, this is now. I’m no longer afraid… I want the days of silence to be over.”

Franken has since apologized. Read the full text of his apology below:

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.

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