A Los Angeles news anchor claims Sen. Al Franken "kissed and groped her" without her consent while the pair were on a USO tour to the Middle East in the early 2000s.
Leeann Tweeden tweeted Thursday morning that, inspired by Rep. Jackie Speier who encouraged anyone who had been victimized by a member of Congress to step forward, she'd decided to tell her story. In an essay published on KABC's website, Tweeden describes her encounter with Franken, whom she says used comedy as an excuse to be inappropriate.
Tweeden, a former model, was on her ninth tour with the USO and expected to be the event emcee, but quickly discovered that Franken had penned a special skit for her to perform with him — and he'd included a kiss that he insisted they practice beforehand.
They did, but without Tweeden's consent.
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.
I walked away. 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 said she didn't report Franken's behavior — or the alleged assault — to superiors, but did her best to stay out of Franken's way for the rest of the tour. He "repaid" her, she says, by peppering her with insults and drawing "devil horns" on pictures she signed for the troops.
Then, on the flight home, as Tweeden slept in her Kevlar vest and helmet, she says Franken groped her while he posed for this photo.
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?
I told my husband everything that happened and showed him the picture.
Tweeden claims she was too scared to complain, worried about the potential backlash and the possibility that lobbing a sexual harassment allegation against a famous comedian would have repercussions to her career. But now she says she's been empowered by other women coming forward to tell their stories.
Sen. Al Franked responded to the allegations by saying that he sends his "sincerest apologies" and that the photo was "clearly intended to be funny."
Just got a response from @alfranken: "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."— Asher Klein (@kleinstar) November 16, 2017
No one is laughing now, Al.