MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Los Angeles radio news anchor and model is accusing Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of kissing her without consent and touching her breasts while she was asleep.
In an article on KABC.com Thursday, news anchor Leeann Tweeden says that Franken sexually assaulted her in 2006 while the two were on a tour in the Middle East to entertain troops.
According to Tweeden, the former SNL comedian kissed her without consent while rehearsing a skit. Later, a photo was taken of Franken touching her chest while she slept on a plane.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she wrote. “He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep.”
— Leeann Tweeden (@LeeannTweeden) November 16, 2017
In a speech in support of the USO on the Senate floor years later, Franken spoke of the tour, and Tweeden.
“During the show, I was a co-host with a beautiful woman named Leann Tweeden,” he said.
Tweeden says she is sharing her story now to encourage victims of sexual assault to speak out immediately and not keep their stories to themselves.
About an hour after her article was posted, Franken apologized to Tweeden.
In a statement released Thursday morning, the Democratic senator said that he was wrong to touch Tweeden’s chest, even as a joke.
“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.”
Sources also tell CNN an emotional and upset Franken apologized to his staff after the accusations became public Thursday. He hasn’t spoken to most of his colleagues, according to CNN, and he hasn’t appeared at any Senate votes or a scheduled Democratic lunch.
In an afternoon press conference, Tweeden said that she isn’t calling for the senator to resign. “It’s not my place,” she said.
In Washington, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for the Ethics Committee to investigate.
“I hope the Democratic Leader will join me on this,” he said in a statement. “Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable — in the workplace or anywhere else.”
Minnesota lawmakers condemned the former comedian’s actions — including Franken’s colleague, Sen. Amy Klobuchar — and joined calls for the ethics committee investigation.
“This is another example of why we need to change work environments and reporting practices across the nation, including in Congress,” she said.
In Franken’s statement, he welcomed calls for an ethics committee investigation.
“I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate,” he said in the statement.
Late Thursday evening, President Trump weighed in on the accusations, referencing a controversial joke Franken reportedly made in the Saturday Night Live writers’ room, which was overheard by a reporter:
Jennifer Carnahan, chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, is calling on Franken to resign.
“When you look at what’s gone on in the entertainment industry with Kevin Spacey, the allegations coming out about him with Harvey Weinstein. There’s been quick and decisive action,” Carnahan said. “When you see these things happening in politics, the issue is around sexual harassment and harassment, there should just be no tolerance for it.”
Should Franken choose to resign, or if the ethics committee investigation leads to a vote to remove him from office, Gov. Mark Dayton would be responsible for appointing a replacement, with a special election to follow in 2018. Franken’s term lasts until 2020.
— Mary McGuire (@mcguirereports) November 16, 2017
Franken was first elected to the Senate in 2009. He is currently serving in his second term.
The accusations against the senator, who is from St. Louis Park, are the latest in a string of incidents in which Hollywood elites, actors and politicians have been called out for alleged incidents of sexual assault and misconduct.