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McConnell Calls for Ethics Investigation as Al Franken Accused of Sexual Harassment

11-16-2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for the Ethics Committee to investigate Minnesota Sen. Al Franken after allegations that he groped and forcibly kissed a woman more than a decade ago.

"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," McConnell said. "Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable in the workplace or anywhere else."

Sen. Franken apologized Thursday after a Los Angeles radio anchor accused him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour and of posing for a photo with his hands on her breasts as she slept.

Leeann Tweeden posted the allegations on the website of the Los Angeles radio station where she now works as a news anchor for a morning radio show.

At the time in question Franken was working as a comedian. Tweeden joined him on one of several trips to entertain troops in December 2006 when she says Franken told her he wrote a skit for the pair that included a kiss, and despite her protests, she alleges he insisted they practice the kiss during rehearsal.
 
"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 wrote.
 
Tweeden also included a photo of her sleeping onboard an aircraft later during the trip, in which Franken is shown reaching out as if to grope her breasts.
 
Franken said in a statement that Tweeden's account of the skit did not match his memory.

"But I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann," Franken wrote. "As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't. I shouldn't have done it."

His formal apology states:

“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.

Speaking on her radio show Thursday morning, Tweeden said she didn't come forward with the allegations sooner because she feared her career, including a stint as a swimsuit model, would lead others to discount her story.
 
"I felt belittled. I was ashamed. I've had to live with this for 11 years," she said on-air. "Somehow it was going to be my fault. It was not going to be worth the fight."
 
Franken is a longtime comedian and "Saturday Night Live" writer who won a Minnesota seat in the U.S. Senate after a lengthy recount in 2009.
 
He drew criticism during his first Senate campaign for joking about rape while discussing a sketch idea during his days on NBC's "Saturday Night Live." Franken said then that he regretted some of the things he had written, and said he respected women "in both my personal and professional life."
 
The senator becomes the latest figure swept up in sexual harassment allegations that have mushroomed since Hollywood figure Harvey Weinstein was hit with multiple allegations. Concerns about sexual harassment are widespread in Congress. House Speaker Paul Ryan has ordered mandatory training.

Associated Press wire copy contributed to this story

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