November 27, 2017
Al Franken has said he feels ’embarrassed and ashamed’ amid allegations that he groped four women, but that he looks forward to returning to Congress on Monday and gradually regaining voters’ trust.
The Democrat senator from Minnesota spoke to a handful of local media outlets on Sunday in the first interviews he’s granted since being swept into a nationwide tide of sexual misconduct allegations.
Three of the accusers said in the past week that Franken grabbed their buttocks while taking photos with them during campaign events.
Franken told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he doesn’t remember the photos, but such groping is ‘not something I would intentionally do.’
Asked whether he expected other women to step forward with similar allegations, Franken said: ‘If you had asked me two weeks ago, ‘Would any woman say I had treated her with disrespect?’ I would have said no. So this has just caught me by surprise. … I certainly hope not.’
The first woman to come forward was Los Angeles radio news anchor Leeann Tweeden.
She released a photo this month showing the then-comedian Franken grinning while reaching out as if to grope her breasts as she slept on a military aircraft during a USO tour in 2006.
Franken told Minnesota Public Radio on Sunday the photo was ‘inexcusable’, but he declined to explain it further.
‘What my intention was doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am chained to that photo,’ Franken said.
Leann Tweeden (pictured), spoke out about an incident involving Franken that happened in 2006. Tweeden accused Franken of forcibly kissing her and putting his hands on her breasts
‘She … didn’t have any ability to consent. She had every right to feel violated by that photo. I have apologized to her and I was very grateful that she accepted my apology.’
Tweeden said Franken also forcibly kissed her while rehearsing for a USO performance, but Franken has said he has a different recollection of the rehearsal.
Another woman, Lindsay Menz, alleges Franken pulled her in closely and squeezed her buttocks while they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.
Two other women, speaking anonymously to The Huffington Post, said Franken grabbed their buttocks during political events in 2007 and 2008, during his first Senate campaign.
‘I don’t remember these photographs. I don’t,’ he said Sunday, estimating he has taken ‘tens of thousands’ of photos with other people over the years. ‘This is not something I would intentionally do.’
Lindsay Menz (pictured) alleges Franken pulled her in closely and squeezed her buttocks while they posed for this photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010
Franken faces a Senate ethics investigation – which he welcomed in the wake of Tweeden’s allegation – though it’s unclear when that review may begin. Franken, who hasn’t faced widespread calls to resign, said he will fully cooperate.
Franken sidestepped questions on Sunday about whether the allegations would make him less effective in the Senate. He noted he has apologized to women who have felt disrespected and ‘to everyone I have let down.’
‘I think this will take some time,’ he told Minnesota Public Radio. ‘I am trying to handle this in a way that adds to an important conversation. And to be a better public servant and a better man. That is what my goal is.’
Franken’s staff didn’t respond to repeated interview requests from The Associated Press.
Franken came to the Senate after a months-long recount gave him a 312-vote victory in his 2008 election. He immediately tried to distance himself from his decades of professional comedy, which included off-color jokes about rape and disparaging women. He also avoided national reporters.
Dozens of women who’ve worked with Franken, including former Senate staffers and women who worked with him on NBC’s ‘Saturday Night Live,’ signed statements supporting Franken following Tweeden’s allegations.
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