By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Several women who worked with Minnesota Senator Al Franken came to his defense Friday.

More than a dozen staff members said they did not experience or see any inappropriate behavior while working for the Democrat, and he treated them with the “utmost respect.”

Franken is under fire for a 2006 photo. Leeann Tweeden, a radio news anchor and former model in Los Angeles, said the then-comedian groped her as she slept on a flight home from a USO tour. She also said Franken forcibly kissed her while rehearsing a skit in Kuwait.

Tweeden said she received a written letter of apology from the senator this morning.

Across the country, politicians, including Governor Mark Dayton, called for an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee.

“They have the power to investigate just about anything that reflects adversely on the Senate,” said Richard Painter, Universty of Minnesota law professor and former ethics lawyer for the George W. Bush administration.

Shortly after Tweeden told her story, Republican and Democratic leaders and even Franken himself, called for an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee.

“They could investigate a conduct that occurred before the Senate member became a member of the Senate,” said Painter.

Painter, a former Whitehouse Ethics Lawyer for George W. Bush, said it doesn’t matter that Franken wasn’t a politician when he allegedly sexually assaulted Tweeden. But he said it’s not likely any investigation will result in Senator Franken losing his Senate seat.

“The whole purpose of the investigation is to find out if there are any other allegations or what happened specifically with these allegations. A Senator is almost never expelled from the Senate. We haven’t had that happen in over 100 years,” said Painter.

But Painter said ethics investigations in the past have turned up evidence of serious misconduct that have led to a lawmaker’s resignation.

At a news conference Friday Governor Mark Dayton, a former U.S. Senator himself, said he’s confident the ethics committee will be thorough.

“They don’t go lightly. Their record speaks for itself in terms of sanctions and what the Senate imposes. With respect to that I’ll refer to their actions,” said Dayton.

But Painter said ethics investigations in the past have turned up evidence of serious misconduct that have led to a lawmaker’s resignation.

At a press conference Friday Governor Mark Dayton, a former U.S. Senator himself, said he’s confident the ethics committee will be thorough.

“They don’t go lightly. Their record speaks for itself in terms of sanctions and what the Senate imposes. With respect to that I’ll refer to their actions,” said Dayton.

Franken issued a written apology saying he was ashamed:

“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

Legislation the senator backed is in jeopardy, too.

Abby Honold was a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Minnesota when she was raped three years ago. She had been working with Senator Franken on a bill that would help victims of sexual assault, but now she says she’ll be finding a new sponsor.

“I was really surprised and disappointed to hear the news that came out yesterday morning,” Honold said.

At a news conference in October, Franken stood by Honold as the sponsor of a bill. A month later, Honold is looking for a new sponsor. She said she talked with Franken’s office Friday morning.

“We agreed that the bill will be released to me and I’ll be able to get another sponsor. And I still appreciate Senator Franken’s support of the bill and everything his amazing staffers have done,” she said.

Honold’s bill would provide funding to law enforcement, for training to help victims of trauma. A bill that she said would strengthen investigations and allow victims to be heard.

“I definitely think that Senator Klobuchar would be an amazing option for this bill. But there are a lot of female legislators who I think would be a good choice in light of everything,” Honold said.

Honold did go on to say that Senator Klobuchar would be her first choice as a sponsor for the bill.

Comments (5)
  1. Lou Cypher says:

    Never trust a politician, ever.
    Where’s the news on the oil spill? This should be a headline.

    1. Katherine Blauvelt, Alexandra Fetissoff, Jessi Held, Natalie Violin Lehr, Karen Saxe, Charlotte Slaiman and Bethany Snider support an admitted rapist! Remember these names. These are the women who put politics above the protection of women. These are the p i m p s in the Democrat party. You are not safe around these women.

  2. Fertheluvagod: when did a “dozen” turn into “several?” You suck.

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