A radio broadcaster accused US Senator Al Franken on Thursday of touching her breasts while she slept and forcing a kiss on her in 2006 when he was still a comedian and the two were preparing to perform before US troops in the Middle East.
Anchor Leeann Tweeden related her experience in a first-person account on the website of Los Angeles station KABC amid outrage over numerous reports of sexual misconduct by powerful men from Hollywood to Capitol Hill. Tweeden said Franken wrote a skit that included a kiss between the two and said he insisted upon rehearsing it, which she at first resisted. “He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me,” she wrote. “We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.” She said she pushed Franken away but felt disgusted and violated.
Reuters was unable to independently verify Tweeden’s account.
Tweeden also said Franken groped her while she slept during their flight home on a military plane. “I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated,” Tweeden wrote. “How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?”
She posted a photo someone had taken of Franken mugging for a photo with his hands on the flak jacket that covered her breasts. “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it,” Franken said in a statement. Tweeden did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Franken’s apology.
Sexual misconduct allegations have been leveled against several well-known men in the entertainment industry and Roy Moore, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, has been accused of having sexual contact with teenage girls decades ago. Moore, 70, has denied the accusations and said he was the victim of a witch hunt.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called for a review of the Franken case. “As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter,” he said in a statement. Franken was a well-known American comedian before he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008 as a Democrat from Minnesota.
Lawmakers this week shared stories of women and men being propositioned and groped in the halls of the U.S. Capitol as Congress reviewed sexual harassment policies. Tweeden said she was telling her story now because she was still angry. “I’m telling my story because there may be others,” she said.