Minnesota Senator Al Franken apologized on Thursday after a Los Angeles radio host accused him of forcibly kissing her and groping her while she slept. The incident occurred during a 2006 tour in Afghanistan to entertain US soldiers.
Leann Tweeden uploaded a photograph to the website of her employer, KABC radio station, showing Franken, then a comedian, touching her breasts while she appears to be sleeping. She wrote on the company's website that she felt "disgusted and violated" when he insisted on sharing a real kiss with her during a skit, and then "aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth."
Tweeden described the power dynamics at play that often prohibit women from coming forward, as well as not wanting to cause trouble in a dangerous war zone.
Franken: I feel disgusted with myself
After initially saying that he remembered the incident differently, the Democratic senator then wrote: "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."
"Coming from the world of comedy, I've told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive."
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called the revelation "troubling" and said he expected an ethics investigation.
Amy Klobluchar, Minnesota's other Democratic senator also said that "this should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden. I strongly condemn this behavior, and the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation."
Republicans call for investigation
The Senate's majority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said that the Senate should look into Franken, considering "all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault" that have been launched recently, including into Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.
Several women have accused Moore of harassing or assaulting them when they were underage. While Moore and his supporters have decried the allegations as a Democratic conspiracy to derail his campaign, McConnell has said he believes Moore's accusers — one of whom has a high school yearbook signed by Moore when he was a district attorney — and that the far-right conservative candidate should quit the Senate race.
es/rt (AP, Reuters)