Sen. Al Franken accused of groping broadcaster while she was sleeping


Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken speaking outside the Capitol, June 9, 2016. (Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images)

(JTA) — A female news anchor has accused Sen. Al Franken of touching her breasts while she was sleeping when both took part in a 2006 tour to entertain U.S. troops.

Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles-based news anchor and former model, wrote Thursday in an article that Franken, a Democrat who has served as a senator for Minnesota since 2009, groped her when the two were on a tour to entertain U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East.

In an article for 790 KABC radio, Tweeden shared a photo that shows Franken, who worked as a comedian prior to his political career, posing for the camera and smiling, apparently grabbing her breasts as she sleeps. Tweeden is seen in the photo wearing a helmet and flak vest.

Tweeden also claimed that Franken, a former writer and performer for “Saturday Night Live,” forcibly kissed her under the pretense of having to practice a skit the two were performing for the troops. Tweeden said she declined multiple requests by Franken to practice the kiss but that he did not relent.

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“He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. 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,” Tweeden wrote.

Franken apologized for his actions but did not deny them in a statement to NBC.

“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” he said, according to Asher Klein, a senior digital editor at NBC Los Angeles. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate majority leader, called on the minority leader, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to join him in demanding an ethics probe.

“As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter,” McConnell said in a statement to Politico. “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.”

Franken, who is Jewish and has been active in Jewish and pro-Israel causes, was one of several prominent Democrats who received donations from Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who last month was accused of sexual assault and harassment by dozens of women. Following the Weinstein revelations, Franken said he would give contributions received from the film producer to charity.

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