A radio news anchor on Thursday accused Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., of forcibly kissing and groping her a decade ago when they were overseas entertaining U.S. troops.
Leeann Tweeden, a radio news anchor with KABC in Los Angeles, said she met Franken in December 2006, before he became a lawmaker, at a USO show for service members that included a skit he wrote that featured a kiss between the two.
She said Franken, a former “Saturday Night Live” cast member, insisted on rehearsing the scene backstage.
“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’,” she wrote in a lengthy and detailed post on KABC’s website.
“He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.”
Tweeden said she reluctantly agreed to rehearse the line leading up to the kiss and that’s when Franken, “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,” she said. “I felt disgusted and violated.”
Franken, through a spokesperson, responded: “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.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called for an ethics investigations into Franken.
“As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter,” McConnell said in a statement. “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.”
Tweeden said that when it was time to perform the skit live, she turned her head so Franken could not kiss her on the lips.
She said after she rebuffed his actions, Franken doled out “petty insults” and drew devil horns one of the headshots she autographed for service members.
But it was when she left the USO show and looked over photographs given to her by a photographer that she found one that showed Franked grabbing her breasts while she was sleeping in the plane and wearing an army-issued protective vest.
Tweeden, who is also a model, said she had done several USO shows in the past and only expected to emcee the event and introduce the acts.
“I couldn’t believe it. 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?” she said.
She said she told her husband everything that happened and showed him the picture at the time.
She said over the years she was reluctant to share her story because it could be damaging to her career.
“But that was then, this is now. I’m no longer afraid,” she said. “I want the days of silence to be over forever.”