Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has been accused of sexual misconduct by a Los Angeles radio anchor, who said Franken kissed her roughly and groped her in 2006 without her consent.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Franken’s Democratic colleague from Minnesota, is calling for an ethics investigation into the allegations.
"This should not have happened to Leann Tweeden,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “I strongly condemn this behavior and the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “This is another example of why we need to change work environments and reporting practices across the nation, including in Congress.”
Franken has supported calls that he be subjected to an ethics investigation.
“The truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories,” Franken said in a statement. “They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”
Leeann Tweeden, an anchor with 790 KABC in Los Angeles, said she and Franken were on a USO tour to the Middle East in 2006 to entertain troops with a group of performers. Franken, who was headlining the tour, had written skits, one of which called for a kiss between her and Franken, and which Franken insisted they rehearse before a performance.
“I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me,” Tweeden wrote in a piece published this morning on KABC.com. “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.
“I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.”
Tweeden also shared a photo in which Franken appears to grope her breasts while she slept on a flight back to the U.S. She said she had discovered the photo on a CD of images provided by a photographer on the tour.
The accusation places Franken among the ranks of numerous, high-profile men who have been accused of sexual misconduct of varying severity in recent months, from Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein to Alabama senate hopeful Roy Moore.
Franken issued a Thursday morning statement in which he said he didn’t recall the skit rehearsal in the same way, but offered his “sincerest apologies.” The photo, he said, he regrets.
In a second statement issued shortly afterward, Franken offered apologies to Tweeden, members of the USO tour, his staff and “everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women,” and requested an ethics investigation into the matter.
Many on Capitol Hill were swift to condemn Franken’s actions as news broke.
Support for an investigation has come from politicians hailing from around the country. Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. and Mitch McConnel, R-Ky., the chamber’s minority and majority leaders, respectively, are among them.
The offices of Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., did not immediately respond to requests for comment.