The shoes just keep dropping.
A fifth woman, an Army veteran who served during the Iraq war, says Sen. Al Franken groped her in December 2003 while she was deployed in Kuwait. Stephanie Kemplin, 41, of Maineville, Ohio, said the Minnesota Democrat cupped her breast during a photo shoot there.
That makes Kemplin the fifth woman in the last two weeks to allege Franken inappropriately touched them, and the second to say the sexual assault happened when Franken was on tour with the United Services Organizations, which entertains troops overseas.
Kemplin said she was excited to meet Franken as she was a big fan of “Saturday Night Live,” on which Franken starred before running for political office.
“When he put his arm around me, he groped my right breast. He kept his hand all the way over on my breast,” Kemplin said in an interview with CNN. “I’ve never had a man put their arm around me and then cup my breast. So he was holding my breast on the side.”
“I remember clenching up and how you just feel yourself flushed,” she said. “And I remember thinking — is he going to move his hand? Was it an accident? Was he going to move his hand? He never moved his hand. It was long enough that he should have known if it was an accident. I’m very confident saying that.”
The grope lasted from five to 10 seconds, she said, and only ended when she shifted her body to move Franken’s hand off her breast before the picture was taken. “I did not process it in those split seconds,” she said. Kemplin was 27 at the time.
A Franken spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday night: “As Sen. Franken made clear this week, he takes thousands of photos and has met tens of thousands of people and he has never intentionally engaged in this kind of conduct. He remains fully committed to cooperating with the ethics investigation.”
In one of multiple lengthy phone calls with a CNN reporter this week, Kemplin repeatedly broke into sobs.
“I was in a war zone… You were on a USO tour — are you trying to boost the morale of the troops or are you trying to boost your own?” she said. “I just feel so sorry for that young girl in that picture.”
Kemplin said she did not say anything to Franken at the time.
“You’re immediately put on the spot. What are you going to do? What are you going to do? Your mind goes a mile a minute,” she said. “Who was I going to tell?”
She also doesn’t recall telling any fellow soldiers about the incident afterwards because she felt ashamed and did not have peers she felt she could confide in. But she discussed it with multiple family members and relatives, including her sister, as well as an ex-boyfriend. CNN interviewed both.
Franken is one of two Democratic lawmakers facing sex charges. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) allegedly sexually harassed staff members and reached a taxpayer-funded settlement with one accuser who said she was fired from his staff for rejecting his sexual advances.
“One of my duties while working for Rep. Conyers was to keep a list of women that I assumed he was having affairs with and call them at his request and, if necessary, have them flown in using Congressional resources,” said one staffer in a sworn affidavit, according to a Buzzfeed report. “A second staffer alleged in an interview that Conyers used taxpayer resources to fly women to him.”
Congressional Democrats have called for official investigations, which will likely give them cover for weeks or months and permit them to refuse comment on the cases. But some party leaders are reportedly getting antsy about dealing with the issues, especially under the current climate.