LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles radio news anchor is accusing Sen. Al Franken of sexual assault during a USO Tour to the Middle East in December 2006.
Leeann Tweeden, who is a news anchor for a morning radio show, claims Franken “kissed and groped” her without consent.
In 2006, Franken was the headliner for a comedy show for American soldiers stationed in the Middle East. Tweeden, who had been a part of nine other USO Tours, accompanied Franken and several other performers on the trip.
In a post on KABC’s website, Tweeden wrote about her experience with Franken on the tour.
“Franken said he had written a part for me that he thought would be funny, and I agreed to play along,” Tweeden wrote. “When I saw the script, Franken had written a moment when his character comes at me for a ‘kiss.’ I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute, or put my hand over his mouth, to get more laughs from the crowd.”
Tweeden said the situation became more uncomfortable when Franken insisted the two practice the kiss backstage. Tweeden dismissed the request, but Franken was insistent and forcibly kissed her and “stuck his tongue” into her mouth.
“He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss,” Tweeden wrote. “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 into my mouth.”
Tweeden said she immediately pushed Franken away and warned she would not respond as nicely if he ever tried to do that again.
“All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth,” Tweeden wrote. “I felt disgusted and violated.”
Tweeden said Franken’s inappropriate behavior didn’t stop there. On the way home from the two week long tour, Tweeden said Franken groped her breasts while she was asleep, offering photographic evidence.
“I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep,” Tweeden wrote. “I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?”
“You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later, and be ashamed,” Tweeden added.
Franken’s office released a lengthy statement addressing the claims, saying it was “completely inappropriate” and there is “no excuse.”
“I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse,” Franken said in a statement. “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.”
Franken, who has a history of making offensive jokes, claims he does not remember forcibly kissing Tweeden during their rehearsal.
“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 said. “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.”
Several Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, are calling for the Senate Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into the situation. Franken says he will cooperate.
Franken is the latest person to become wrapped up in allegations of sexual misconduct. Tweeden says the flood of recent stories of sexual assault have encouraged her to share her own story, which she says she is “still angry” about.
“Senator Franken, you wrote the script. But there’s nothing funny about sexual assault,” Tweeden wrote.
Read Tweeden’s full story here.