Radio personality Leeann Tweeden accused Minnesota Senator and comedian Al Franken of grouping her without consent on Thursday, November 16.
“In December of 2006, I embarked on my ninth USO Tour to entertain our troops, my eighth to the Middle East since the 9/11 attacks,” Tweeden began in a blog post she wrote for the California radio station KABC, where she hosts a morning talk show. “My father served in Vietnam and my then-boyfriend (and now husband, Chris) is a pilot in the Air Force, so bringing a ‘little piece of home’ to servicemembers stationed far away from their families was both my passion and my privilege.”
“Franken had written some skits for the show and brought props and costumes to go along with them,” she continued. “Like many USO shows before and since, the skits were full of sexual innuendo geared toward a young, male audience.”
The model, who said she was “only expecting to emcee and introduce the acts,” then detailed what allegedlyy happened when Franken wrote a skit that included her and a kiss.
“On the day of the show Franken and I were alone backstage going over our lines one last time,” Tweeden wrote. “He said to me, ‘We need to rehearse the kiss.’ I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, ‘Relax Al, this isn’t SNL…we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’ He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.”
Tweeden continued: “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.”
The sportscaster said she felt “disgusted and violated” and when she performed the skit with Franken on stage, she turned her head so he couldn’t kiss her on the lips again.
Tweeden wrote that on the way home from the tour later that year, she found a photo of Franken putting his hands on her breasts while she was sleeping.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Tweeden wrote. “He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep. I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?”
Franken released a statement shortly after the accusations broke.
“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,” the statement reads. “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,” he continues. “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.”
Franken also added, “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.”