Speaking to media in his home state of Minnesota on Sunday, Nov. 26, Senator Al Franken said he feels “embarrassed and ashamed” after having been accused by 4 women of inappropriate sexual touching.
The Democrat also said that after 8 days away from the spotlight, he will be returning to work on Monday and will try to regain the trust of voters.
The first to accuse Franken was L.A. radio news anchor Leeann Tweeden, who went public on Nov. 16. Tweeden said he kissed her inappropriately during a rehearsal for a skit they were to perform during a USO tour to the Middle East in 2006.
The skit called for a kiss but she said he used his tongue and that she did not want him to kiss her during rehearshal. At the time Franken had yet to enter politics and was on the tour because of his status as a well known comedian.
He has apologized for that incident and for a photo taken aboard a plane during the same tour in which he is shown to lunge out toward a sleeping Tweeden as if to grab her breasts. She’s accepted both his apologies and said she does not believe he should lose his job because of these incidents.
Tweeden is a former employee of Fox and has been a panelist on a Sean Hannity show multiple times. She is an open supporter of Republican candidates.
The other three Franken accusers each say he patted their butts during a photo opp in separate campaign events, one saying he did so in 2007, another in 2008 and a third woman said he touched her butt inappropriately during a photo opp in 2010.
Franken has also apologized to those women. However, he told media he has taken thousands of photos on the campaign trail and at other events and does not remember the incidents.
Franken told Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Jennifer Brooks over the phone that groping a woman is not something he would “intentionally do.” When asked if he expected more accusers, he could not say.
“If you had asked me two weeks ago, ‘Would any woman say I had treated her with disrespect?’ I would have said no,” he told Brooks. “So this has just caught me by surprise. I certainly hope not.”
Tweeden herself has been shown to have made a sexual joke on that same Middle East tour that could be considered inappropriate. At one stop, she introduced the late-Robin Williams and before she exits the stage, as they hug, she throws her leg around his waist in a gesture that appears sexual. She then pats his butt as she leaves.
Franken told the Star Tribune he has work to do to show his constituents he is trustworthy and that he intends to do it. “I’ve let a lot of people down and I’m hoping I can make it up to them and gradually regain their trust,” he said.