Another week and another prominent person apologizing for sexual misconduct. This time, it’s former comedian, writer, and current Minnesota Senator, Al Franken, on the hot seat. Franken will very likely be exposed to a Senate ethics investigation since he has been accused of “forcibly kissing” a Los Angeles radio host during a shared USO tour back in 2006.
Franken Admits to Accusations
At this point, Franken has admitted to some of the accusations, while both Democrats and Republicans are calling for further investigation. So far, Franken has yet to relinquish his Senate seat over the incident. The talk show host, Leeann Tweeden, posted a photo of Franken grabbing at or on her breasts while she slept during the same USO tour.
Tweeden said, about Franken, “Every time I see him now, my hands clench into fists…” Still, Tweeden says she accepts his apology, and is, at least currently, not asking for Franken to resign. The host says her act of speaking out is meant to encourage other abused or harassed women to speak out.
The main incident she objected to, the unwanted kiss, came during the rehearsal for a skit, written by Franken, in which a kiss was scripted. Here’s Tweeden’s memory of the incident: “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…”
About the photo, Tweeden said, “I felt belittled. I was ashamed. I’ve had to live with this for 11 years… Somehow it was going to be my fault. It was not going to be worth the fight.”
Speaking of his Democratic colleague, Senate Leader Chuck Schumer said the allegations were troubling. “Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated…”
Franken’s Actions Are Denounced
Others, including Franken’s fellow Minnesota colleague, Amy Klobuchar, have strongly denounced Franken’s actions. “This should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden. I strongly condemn this behavior, and the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation…”
That action seems likely, and there are some reports that even Franken is calling for it. Franken, though he has apologized, says the kiss in question happened during the rehearsal for a skit, and he remembers things differently: “While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences… Coming from the world of comedy, I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive.”
Franken did condemn himself for the photo in question. “I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate… It’s obvious Leeann would feel violated by that picture…”