MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Sen. Al Franken was accused of sexual harassment by a Los Angeles radio news anchor on Thursday.
Leeann Tweeden says Franken forcibility kissed and groped her once while rehearsing a comedy skit they were performing together for service members during a 2006 USO tour in the Middle East.
Tweeden also released a photo of her asleep on a military aircraft, wearing a flak jacket and a helmet. Franken is shown standing over her, appearing to be groping her chest.
This is not the first time the Democratic Minnesota Senator has been dogged by controversy.
In the early spring of 2008, Senate candidate Franken had a strong lead heading into the June DFL nominating convention.
But two things from his comedic past surfaced that almost derailed his political career.
An article in the March 1995 issue of New York Magazine contained a fly-on-the-wall account of Franken in the “Saturday Night Live” offices, where he worked as a comedy writer and performer for 15 years.
Franken was quoted discussing a sketch with fellow writers Jim Downey and Norm Macdonald, the latter of whom was to play former “60 Minutes” commentator Andy Rooney.
While riffing on ideas involving Rooney finding an empty bottle of sedatives in his desk, Franken suggested Rooney say he had used the drugs to sedate and rape fellow “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl. MacDonald and Franken then were quoted going back and forth about Mike Wallace, another correspondent, also being one of Rooney’s rape victims. Rooney, who passed away in 2011, was never accused of any crimes in his lifetime.
The statement drew sharp criticism from Republicans, including then-State Representative Laura Brod in June of 2008.
“This was intended to be a joke. This was intended to illicit laughter. Rape, a joke. Just think about it,” Brod said. “Rape is not a punchline, and it certainly is not funny.”
In two tweets Thursday night, President Trump referenced the joke about Lesley Stahl:
The other article that came into question was an satirical essay Franken wrote for Playboy Magazine in 2000, entitled “Porn-O-Rama.”
In this piece, Franken waxed on a premise about how the internet is making it easier for people to be debauched. He wrote — satirically — on how his son had to write a school report on bestiality, and how he was able to “download some effective visual aids” with the internet’s help.
Another premise in the article revolved around Franken touring a fictitious sexual training facility in Minnesota, and having graphic virtual reality sex.
In response to the article, Congresswoman Betty McCollum, who was supporting another candidate at the time, criticized Franken for “pornographic writings that are indefensible.”
Franken writes in his 2017 bestselling political memoir “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate,” that he feared he would lose the nomination. At the convention in Rochester he apologized.
“It kills me, the things I said and wrote sent a message to some of my friends in this room and the people in this state that they can’t count on me to be a champion for women, and for all the people of Minnesota in this campaign and in the Senate. I’m sorry for that,” Franken said.
In his memoir, Franken wrote that he received a standing ovation after that speech, and he easily won the nomination on the first ballot.
Franken also defended both the Stahl joke and the Playboy article in his memoir, saying that at the time, “I was just doing my job.”
His memoir also features a passage about the now-infamous USO tour in December of 2006, where Leeann Tweeden is now accusing him of sexual assault.
He does not mention Tweeden in the memoir, but said he decided he was running for Senate says at the time of that tour.