News anchor Leeann Tweeden has accused Sen. Al Franken of kissing and groping her without consent. Thursday, Tweeden tweeted out her account of the alleged harassment using the solidarity hashtag #MeToo, which was started in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein fallout.
"In December of 2006, I embarked on my ninth USO Tour to entertain our troops, my eighth to the Middle East since the 9/11 attacks," Tweeden said. "My father served in Vietnam and my then-boyfriend (and now husband, Chris) is a pilot in the Air Force, so bringing a 'little piece of home' to service members stationed far away from their families was both my passion and my privilege." Franken, who was still a comedian at the time, joined Tweeden on the trip alongside a variety of musical artists and Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. Franken was the headliner.
According to Tweeden, Franken wrote a skit in which his character "comes at me for a kiss." Franken, allegedly, repeatedly insisted on rehearsing the kiss, which made Tweeden uncomfortable. "I said 'OK' so he would stop badgering me," she said. "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. I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time."
The incident, which Tweeden said left her feeling "disgusted and violated," was allegedly followed by Franken drawing devil hours on "at least" one of the headshots she was handing out to service members. Also, as seen in the photo Tweeden tweeted alongside her account of the alleged 2006 incident, Franken later took a photograph in which he grabbed her breasts while she was sleeping on the way back to Los Angeles, California.
In his original statement in response to Tweeden's accusations, Franken didn't remember the skit rehearsal "in the same way," but offered "sincerest apologies" to Tweeden. "As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't," he said, according to NBC News. "I shouldn't have done it." Following backlash, Franken released a lengthier statement later Thursday afternoon.
"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," Franken said in his second statement. "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." Franken has also called for an ethics investigation to be opened on himself, the Hill reported.