Democratic Senator Al Franken – who has been accused of kissing a woman without her consent and pretending to grope her in a photo – once pitched an SNL sketch about raping a journalist, it has emerged.
The remarks were made in 1995, when Franken and other writers on the show were working up a sketch about then-60 Minutes host Andy Rooney finding a bottle of pills in his desk, New York Magazine reported at the time.
As the team batted ideas around, Franken suggested that the pills might be used by Rooney to drug Lesley Stahl at which point he would ‘take her to the closet and rape her’.
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Al Franken has been hit with allegations that he forced radio host and ex-model Leeann Tweeden to kiss him and groped her on a plane (pictured) during a 2006 USO tour
As those claims circulated, a report re-emerged saying that Franken (left, in July) pitched an SNL skit in 1995 about CBS reporter Lesley Stahl (right in 2016) being drugged and raped
The unaired sketch would have seen Norm Macdonald playing 60 Minutes host Andy Rooney (left: Macdonald in the role in another sketch; right: Rooney, bottom-right, with Stahl and others in 1993) admitting to drugging Stahl then raping her in a closet
The sketch was part of an ongoing series in which Norm Macdonald portrayed Rooney as an out-of-touch misanthrope with a tenuous grasp on reality.
Macdonald had suggested that Rooney could say ‘I don’t know what the pills are for – what I do know is, the bottle is mostly filled with cotton.’
Franken then chipped in with: ”And, “I give the pills to Lesley Stahl. Then, when Lesley’s passed out, I take her to the closet and rape her.”
‘Or, “That’s why you never see Lesley until February.” Or, “When she passes out, I put her in various positions and take pictures of her.”‘
Stahl was a contributor to 60 Minutes at the time. Macdonald then asked, ‘What if Rooney rapes Mike Wallace? And then says, “I guess that makes me bad.” Is it funnier with a black guy? Or two old white guys?’
Franken responded: ‘What about, “I drag Mike into my office and rape him. Right here! I guess that makes me bad.”‘
The sketch never made it to air, and it’s questionable whether it was ever intended to do so.
But the 1995 report has now resurfaced – as it did in 2008, when Franken made his successful run for Minnesota Senator.
At the time, his campaign said: ‘Al understands, and the people of Minnesota understand, the difference between what a satirist does and what a senator does.’
But newly emerged claims that Franken kissed a woman without her consent in 2006, and pretended to grope her in a photo while she was sleeping have been tougher for the comedian to address.
FRANKEN’S ‘RAPE TALK’
Senator Al Franken’s bad-taste rape gag emerged during a Saturday Night Live writers’ session recorded in a New York Magazine in 1995.
The conversation saw Franken, Norm Macdonald and head writer Jim Downey discussing a sketch about then-60 Minutes host Andy Rooney discovering a pill bottle on his desk.
It was part of an ongoing series of skits in which Macdonald played Rooney as an out-of-touch curmudgeon.
The group discussed why Rooney – who had, in real life, made controversial remarks about Native Americans, gay people and Kurt Cobain’s suicide in the years immediately previous – would need the pills.
Initially they discussed whether the pills were for treating ‘hallucinations,’ ‘mood swings,’ ‘dementia,’ or ‘NRA dementia.’
Downey: ‘That’s too much. It’s his attitude that’s funny, the fact that he’s ignoring something that’s obviously important.’
MacDonald: ‘So I can say, “I don’t know what the pills are for – what I do know is, the bottle is mostly filled with cotton.”‘
Franken: ‘And, “I give the pills to Lesley Stahl. Then, when Lesley’s passed out, I take her to the closet and rape her.” Or, “That’s why you never see Lesley until February.” Or, “When she passes out, I put her in various positions and take pictures of her.”‘
Downey: ‘”Here’s a picture of Ed Bradley.”‘
MacDonald: ‘What if Rooney rapes Mike Wallace? And then says, “I guess that makes me bad.” Is it funnier with a black guy? Or two old white guys?’
Franken: ‘What about, “I drag Mike into my office and rape him. Right here! I guess that makes me bad.”‘
In 2000, Franken also suggested during a roast of director Rob Reiner that he was regularly sodomized by his father Carl Reiner, and would allow his friends to sodomize him.
On Thursday Franken apologized to model-turned-radio host Leeann Tweeden for his improper conduct when the pair were on a 2006 USO tour.
Tweeden, who is a morning host on TalkRadio 790 KABC, wrote of her experiences and published a photo that shows Franken reaching to grab her breasts while she was asleep on a military aircraft.
After hearing of his apology, Tweeden said during a press conference that ‘people make mistakes. I’m not calling for him to step down. That’s not my place to say that.’
But the host, who is also the mother of a young son and daughter, both toddlers, hinted that if other women were to come forward with similar stories, that may change.
‘I’ve gotten a phone call from a woman that has – I’ve only gotten a message – that says something similar has happened to her. And I haven’t returned it yet. So that’s to be determined. I don’t know,’ Tweeden said.
‘People make mistakes. I’m not calling for him to step down. That’s not my place to say that. You know?’ Tweeden told reporters during a press conference on Thursday
She hinted, though, that her own accusations might be only the first: ‘I’ve gotten a phone call from a woman that has – I’ve only gotten a message – that says something similar has happened to her. And I haven’t returned it yet. So that’s to be determined’
Leeann Tweeden, pictured in 2006, just months before performing in the fateful USO tour, says she’s still angry at Sen. Franken, and has found the courage to speak about her experience because of other women who have described similar mistreatment at the hands of powerful men
Accusations from the radio host, who was a 23-year-old model at the time, could put Franken into the same basket as Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, movie producer Harvey Weinstein, comedian Louis C.K. and actor Kevin Spacey.
‘It happened so fast. He mashed his lips against my face and stuck his tongue in my mouth so fast,’ Tweeden said Thursday.
‘All I can remember is that his lips were really wet and slimy and in my mind I called him “fish lips” the rest of the trip. That’s what it reminded me of.’
‘He stuck his tongue down my mouth and I remember I pushed him off with my hands and I remember I almost punched him – because every time I see him now my hands clinch into fists.’
‘And I said, “If you ever do that to me again, I won’t be so nice about it the second time.” I walked out away from him and I wanted to find a bathroom and rinse my mouth out. I was disgusted.’
Franken’s apology was forceful and calculated – and called ‘heartfelt’ by Tweeden on CNN.
She said she is speaking publicly in part in order to set an example that will one day give her children, ages four and two, a better social climate as they grow up.
‘I don’t want to be a cliche, but you know, you talk about trying to leave the world a better place for your kids, you know,’ she said, shedding a tear.
‘You do. You want to leave – you try to set examples for your children.’
Franken is a Democratic lawmaker who excoriated Harvey Weinstein and supported his many accusers last month, ultimately giving a women’s charity in Minnesota all the money Weinstein had donated to his political campaigns
Leeann Tweeden, pictured at age 41, was 38 when she posed in the nude for Playboy magazine
‘The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women,’ Franken wrote in a statement hours after Tweeden went public.
‘There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing – and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine – is: I’m sorry.’
‘I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t,’ the accused government groper added. ‘And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.’
He specifically addressed the photo, shot as the USO performance troupe headed home the day before Christmas in 2006.
‘For instance, that picture. I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture,’ Franken added.
‘And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it – women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.’
Tweeden said Thursday that Franken approached her at a USO event just a few years ago and tried to make small talk, without any offer of an ‘I’m sorry.’
‘He had a chance to apologize to me then, because he knew exactly what he did to me then, and that picture was out there,’ she said.
In this screen grab from a video shot during the USO tour, Franken (center-right) leers at Tweeden (center) as she signs autographs
Initially in reputation-saving mode, Franken’s office had sent a much shorter statement Thursday as news coverage of Tweeden’s story reached a frenzy.
‘I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way,’ he said then, of the forced-kiss allegation, ‘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.’
Just 24 hours earlier during a Senate confirmation hearing for a Texas jurist nominated to be a federal judge, Franken engaged in a back-and-forth on one of the nominee’s humorous tweets about the right to marry bacon.
‘I don’t get it,’ Franken scolded Judge Don Willett. ‘But sometimes when you don’t get a joke, it’s because it wasn’t a joke.’