UPDATE (9:25 p.m. PST): Another prominent public figure has been accused of making unwanted sexual advances. Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden said Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., forced himself on her and groped her while the two were on a USO tour in 2006.
In a statement posted on KABC’s website, Tweeden wrote the incident occurred in December of that year, during a rehearsal for a USO holiday show in the Middle East. Franken, she said, wrote a skit in which he was to kiss Tweeden. She says Franken told her “we need to rehearse the kiss.”
Tweeden said she told the former “Saturday Night Live” star “something like ‘Relax Al this isn’t SNL … we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’” But she said he insisted and she relented. “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 felt “disgusted and violated,” but didn’t report it because “we were in the middle of a war zone” and “I didn’t want to cause trouble.”
She said on the way back from the tour on board an Army transport plane, while she was asleep, Franken groped her. Her post includes a photo of Franken with his hands on her chest, looking back at the camera and smiling. She’s asleep, wearing a helmet and flak jacket.
At the time, Franken was performing as a professional comedian before running for the Senate. Tweeden was on her ninth USO tour, known at the time for her work as a TV host, sportscaster and model.
Franken described their performances on USO tours during a 2010 Senate floor speech in opposition to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. “I was a kind of co-host with a beautiful woman named Leeann Tweeden, and we’d do comedy routines and we’d introduce music and introduce the cheerleaders,” Franken said.
Franken issued a statement: “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.”
Tweeden’s accusation against Franken came two days after a House hearing on what was described as a pervasive problem of sexual misconduct in Congress, and as Republicans urged Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to drop out of the race after numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, including assault, when his accusers were mostly teenagers.
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell called for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate the Franken incident:
“As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter. I hope the Democratic Leader will join me on this. Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable—in the workplace or anywhere else.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer did not immediately comment on the allegations. A previously scheduled news conference on taxes with Schumer and other Democratic senators was postponed. [Copyright 2017 NPR]