Franken apologizes after woman says he groped her
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) apologized Thursday after a female broadcaster said the lawmaker groped and kissed her without her consent during a 2006 trip overseas.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) immediately called for an ethics investigation, and Franken vowed to cooperate.
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Multiple Democratic senators quickly broke with Franken after Leeann Tweeden, a radio anchor for Los Angeles’ KABC, wrote Thursday about the senator’s admitted misconduct. Tweeden described harassment by Franken while she and the comedian, then a host on liberal talk radio, toured the Middle East to entertain military personnel in 2006.
According to Tweeden, Franken crafted a performance skit during the trip to make the anchor kiss him against her will. “I felt disgusted and violated,” she said of the incident. “I tried to let it go, but I was angry.”
Tweeden wrote that after she returned from the overseas trip she discovered a picture of the senator groping her as she slept.
Tweeden’s allegations were published Thursday on the radio station’s website accompanied by a picture depicting Franken grabbing the anchor’s breast while she slept aboard a C-17 cargo plane as they departed from Afghanistan.
McConnell (R-Ky.) immediately called for the ethics committee to investigate, and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Franken himself echoed the need for such a probe.
Some of Franken’s fellow Democrats readily shared their dismay at his actions as Tweeden’s story swept through the Capitol. A growing awareness of sexual harassment’s prevalence is propelling a push to overhaul Capitol Hill’s system for handling workplace misconduct complaints.
“I have every reason to believe Ms. Tweeden’s account,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) told reporters. “I think that women should be able to feel safe and free in their workplace, and if there are such allegations they should come forward.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) called Franken’s behavior “unacceptable,” adding that he believes Tweeden.
“Sexual harassment and groping are never okay,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told reporters. “Sen. Franken will have to address the allegations in the article.”
The Franken allegations come as McConnell and GOP leaders continue to isolate Roy Moore amid multiple alleged cases of sexual harassment or misconduct by the Alabama Senate nominee. While many GOP senators initially qualified their condemnation of Moore’s behavior, suggesting they had yet to fully evaluate the assault charges against the Alabama Republican, the Democrats who spoke out against Franken’s actions on Thursday pointedly aligned with Tweeden’s story.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who is seeking GOP support for legislation that would broadly reform Capitol Hill’s sexual harassment policy, said that she believes Tweeden’s “deeply concerning” story.
“I feel very strongly that Roy Moore should not be a senator and I feel strongly that, if he is elected, that the Senate should have its own response to it,” Gillibrand told reporters. “I expect to hear more from Sen. Franken on this issue.”
Other Democrats declined to answer questions about Franken on Thursday or held off making a statement. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a frequent liberal ally of Franken, avoided questions from reporters, while Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said that he is “waiting to hear from Al.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), vice chairman of the ethics committee, cited policy against weighing in on a matter before the panel, as did fellow committee members Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).
In his call for an ethics committee probe of Franken, McConnell said that “all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault” should be investigated by the panel. “Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable — in the workplace or anywhere else,” the Kentucky Republican said.