MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – In a WCCO Exclusive, Senator Al Franken is talking about the allegations against him.
“I’m not going to make any excuses. I am embarrassed and ashamed, of some of what has come out,” Franken said Sunday.READ MORE: 3 Teens Arrested In Connection To Drive-By Shootings In Northern Minnesota
In an interview at his daughter’s home in Washington D.C., Senator Franken told WCCO’s Esme Murphy he has no intentions of stepping down. And as Esme shows us in this WCCO Exclusive, he’s committed to earning back the trust of Minnesotans.
In a 35-minute interview, Sen. Al Franken walked a line between apologizing and insisting he doesn’t recall specific groping allegations brought by four different women.
“I understand I am going to have to do everything I can going forward to be enormously sensitive, I apologize to these women,” Franken said.
The first allegation that surfaced was from radio host Leeann Tweedan, who said that during a USO tour in 2006, shortly before he announced his run for the Senate, Franken forcibly kissed her against her will.
“With Leeann Tweeden, I said I had a different recollection of the kiss we had,” Franken said.
“What is your recollection?” Murphy asked.
“My recollection is different than hers. I apologized to her and meant it and she was gracious enough to accept my apology,” Franken said.
FULL INTERVIEW: WCCO’S Esme Murphy Talks With Al Franken
Franken did unequivocally apologize for this photograph from that same trip that shows him smiling with his hands over Tweeden’s breasts.
“The picture was inexcusable and that is what I am most ashamed for,” Franken said.
Then there are the three other women: Lindsay Menz, and two who came forward anonymously in a Huffington Post article. All have similar stories claiming that Franken, while posing pictures with them, grabbed their buttocks. They say the incidents happened between 2007 and 2010, while Franken was either campaigning for the Senate or was a Senator.
“Are they mistaken that their butt was grabbed is that what you are saying?” Murphy asked.
“I am not saying that. As I said, I take thousands of photos. I don’t remember these particular photos,” Franken said.
“With all due respect, people are going to find it hard to believe that someone such as yourself wouldn’t know that they were grabbing someone’s butt,” Murphy said.
“I can understand how some people would see it that way,” Franken said.
“But have you ever placed a hand on some woman’s butt?” Murphy asked.
“I can’t say that it hasn’t happened. In crowded chaotic situations, I can’t say that I have not done that. I am very sorry if these women experienced that,” Franken said.
“Are there going to be any other women who are going to come forward? Are there any other allegations that you know of?” Murphy asked.READ MORE: Sen. Tina Smith Cosponsors Bill That Aims To Expand SCOTUS, Abolish Filibuster: ’Doing Nothing Is Not An Option’
“If you had told me two weeks ago that women were going to come forward and say I disrespected them, I would have said no,” Franken said.
“I don’t think any of the women are using that word disrespected,” Murphy said.
“Or done anything like this,” Franken said.
“Disrespected is your word. Leeann Tweeden said you forcefully kissed her,” Murphy said.
“I know what she said,” Franken said.
“They are not using the word disrespect. People are looking at that word and saying ‘No.’ Lindsay Menz said you molested her on Facebook right afterward. I think these women feel this goes way behind disrespect,” Murphy said.
“I understand that I have a different recollection,” Franken said.
Franken says he is going back to work on Monday.
“I think I can win back the respect of the people of Minnesota and I understand I have a long way to go,” Franken said.
“So I take it that you have no intention of resigning?” Murphy asked.
“No we have an ethics process that I have agreed to cooperate with completely,” Franken said.
Franken, who was among the most aggressive of questioners during appointment hearing for President Trump’s cabinet members, says he is not going to let up on his criticism of the Trump administration.
“Can you really continue to claim the moral high ground, particularly in issues surrounding the Trump administrations Russia ties, when many people feel you have been less than transparent about these issues?” Murphy asked.
“Well I think I am a good questioner. My questions don’t go to my credibility. They go to the credibility of the witnesses,” Franken said.
“But hasn’t your credibility been undermined?” Murphy asked.
“I would say yes and I have a long way to go to win back the trust of the people of Minnesota. There are a lot of people I have let down, my friends and staff, my family down. I am just very sorry,” Franken said.
Senator Franken declined to talk about other prominent politicians and other public figures accused of sexual harassment, including President Trump, Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore and former CBS & PBS news anchor Charlie Rose.
Sixty-five prominent DFL women signed a statement in support of Senator Franken saying, in part, “While we are discouraged by the allegations, we appreciate that he has apologized and is committed to regaining the trust of Minnesotans.”MORE NEWS: Minneapolis Teachers To Picket Thursday, Call For More Support Amid Pandemic