November 16, 2017
WASHINGTON – A TV host and sportscaster on Thursday accused Sen. Al Franken of kissing and groping her without her consent when she was on a tour to the Middle East to entertain U.S. troops.



Franken is the first sitting lawmaker in Washington to be publicly accused of sexual harassment or abuse in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein harassment scandal that has rocked the country, though the alleged incident took place in 2006, before his time in Congress.
Leeann Tweeden, who is now a morning news anchor on KABC Radio in Los Angeles, said in an online post that Franken, while on the USO tour, "put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth."
The incident, Tweeden said, took place back stage when the two were practicing their lines for a skit Franken wrote. The comedian, Tweeden said, had insisted the skit include a kiss but she did not want to go through with it.
"I felt disgusted and violated," Tweeden said. "Not long after, I performed the skit as written, carefully turning my head so he couldn’t kiss me on the lips." Yet she did not report what happened. "At the time I didn’t want to cause trouble," she said. "We were in the middle of a war zone."
Tweeden also said Franken groped her while she was sleeping during the flight home, which she only discovered by reviewing a photograph on a CD of images from the trip. The photo featured her asleep and Franken holding her breasts.

"I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep," she writes. "I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?"
Sen. Franken apologized for both allegations after Tweeden's account published on Thursday.
“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann," Franken said in a statement provided to USA TODAY. "As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't. I shouldn't have done it.”
Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called on the Senate Ethics Committee to review the allegations and said he hoped Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., would support that.
“As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter," McConnell said in a statement. "I hope the Democratic Leader will join me on this. Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable—in the workplace or anywhere else."
In the wake of the incidents, Tweeden said she wanted "to shout my story to the world with a megaphone to anyone who would listen, but even as angry as I was, I was worried about the potential backlash and damage going public might have on my career as a broadcaster."
During a Tuesday congressional hearing on Capitol Hill, female lawmakers including Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said there are sitting members of Congress who've also behaved inappropriately but declined to name names.
Speier also appeared on Tweeden's show a few weeks ago, and told a story about being sexually assaulted when she was a congressional aide, which inspired the TV host to speak out now.
"At that moment, I thought to myself, Al Franken did that exact same thing to me. I had locked up those memories of helplessness and violation for a long time, but they all came rushing back to me and my hands clinched into fists like it was yesterday," Tweeden wrote.
"I’m still angry at what Al Franken did to me. Every time I hear his voice or see his face, I am angry. I am angry that I did his stupid skit for the rest of that tour. I am angry that I didn’t call him out in front of everyone when I had the microphone in my hand every night after that. I wanted to. But I didn’t want to rock the boat. I was there to entertain the troops and make sure they forgot about where they were for a few hours. Someday, I thought to myself, I would tell my story. That day is now.
"Senator Franken, you wrote the script. But there’s nothing funny about sexual assault."
Since becoming a lawmaker, Franken has made a name for himself as a progressive, and has taken strong stances against sexual assault and harassment.
“Sexual harassment and violence are unacceptable,” he tweeted in October, as the #MeToo campaign started trending on Twitter. After revelations that Hollywood director Weinstein assaulted many actresses and other women, victims of sexual abuse and harassment started sharing their stories online. As the floodgate of assault reports opened, Franken tweeted, “We all must do our part to listen, stand with, and support survivors.”

Franken has also co-sponsored a bill about supporting survivors of sexual violence in tribal communities.
“An alarming number of American Indians face sexual violence in their lifetime, and it’s frequently at the hands of non-Indians. But because tribes lack jurisdiction over non-Indian offenders, criminals often go unprosecuted, unpunished, and are free to commit more crimes,” he wrote on Facebook in October. “This must be addressed, and one of the most important steps we can take is to give tribes more power to hold offenders accountable for these heinous acts.”
Before jumping into politics, Franken was best known as a comedian. An original writer for Saturday Night Live, he worked on the show from 1975 to 1980 and again from 1985 to 1995.

Sen. Al Franken accused of kissing and groping broadcaster Leeann Tweeden without her consent

He continued to work in the entertainment industry after leaving SNL. During that time, he headlined several USO tours in Iraq.
Long before launching his own political career, Franken dabbled in politics. That included writing a parody book, Why Not Me?, which imagined a 2000 presidential run that never materialized.
Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota was his mentor. After Wellstone died in a plane crash in 2002, Franken, who grew up in Minnesota, was reportedly very affected by Wellstone’s death. He talked about running for Wellstone’s seat, and moved back to the state in late 2005. During that same time period, he launched the progressive Midwest Values PAC.
He announced his candidacy for the seat in February 2007, just a few months after the alleged incident between himself and Tweeden.
Franken was elected to the Senate in 2008.

Sen. Al Franken accused of kissing and groping broadcaster Leeann Tweeden without her consent

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