Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has issued a second statement following journalist Leeann Tweeden’s revelation on Thursday that the lawmaker grabbed her breasts while she slept and forcibly kissed her during a USO trip in 2006.
Tweeden, who anchors the morning news at TalkRadio 790 KABC, posted a photo on her Twitter account.
“I’ve decided it’s time to tell my story,” Tweeden wrote.
— Leeann Tweeden (@LeeannTweeden) November 16, 2017
Franken issued an initial statement Thursday in which he apologized, saying, “I shouldn’t have done it,” arguing the photo “[was] intended to be funny.”
Franken’s second statement reads:
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. 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. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.
But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us—including and especially men who respect women—have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.
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. 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.
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. But the intentions behind my actions aren’t the point at all. It’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come to terms with that.
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.
I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.
And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”
In 2006, Tweeden had a boyfriend (who is now her husband) and was on a two-week USO Tour with the then-55-year-old Franken and others. Included in her article is a photograph that clearly shows the Democrat Senator grabbing her breasts while she is asleep.
According to Tweeden, the unwanted kiss occurred during a rehearsal for a USO skit. She believes Franken (who was married) intentionally wrote a skit for the two of them so he would have an excuse to kiss her, something she did not want to do. She says that Franken insisted they rehearse until it got uncomfortable and she relented. This is when she alleges he “aggressively” shoved his tongue into her mouth:
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.
I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.
I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth.
I felt disgusted and violated.
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