Woman accuses US Senator of unwanted groping, kiss
WASHINGTON: A radio broadcaster accused US Senator Al Franken on Thursday of touching her breasts while she slept and forcing a kiss on her in 2006 when he was still a comedian and the two were preparing to perform before US troops in the Middle East.
Anchor Leeann Tweeden related her experience in a first-person account on the website of Los Angeles station KABC amid outrage over numerous reports of sexual misconduct by powerful men from Hollywood to Capitol Hill.
Franken, a Democrat, issued an apology on Thursday. The Senate's Democratic and Republican leaders called on the Ethics Committee to review the allegations and Franken said he would cooperate.
Tweeden said Franken wrote a skit that included a kiss between the two and said he insisted upon rehearsing it, which she at first resisted.
"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," she wrote. "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."
She said she pushed Franken away but felt disgusted and violated.
Tweeden also said Franken groped her while she slept during their flight home on a military plane. "I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated," Tweeden wrote. "How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it's funny?"
She posted a photo taken at the time of Franken mugging for the camera with his hands above her breasts as she sat in the military aircraft wearing a flak jacket with eyes closed.
"I certainly don't remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, 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," Franken said in a statement.
Reuters was unable to independently verify Tweeden or Franken's accounts.
She told reporters in a later press conference that she considered the kiss an assault but accepted his apology.
"The apology? Sure, I accept it," she said. "People make mistakes and of course he knew he made a mistake."
US President Donald Trump weighed in on Twitter, calling the photo "really bad."
"And to think that just last week he (Franken) was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women," Trump tweeted.
Trump himself came under fire last year over alleged sexual misconduct after a decade-old outtake from his appearance on the television program "Access Hollywood" surfaced during the presidential campaign, in which Trump bragged about kissing and grabbing women without their consent.
Trump later apologized for the "Access Hollywood" comments, which he called "locker room talk."