- Joe Raedle/Getty Images
- Al Franken apologized after a Los Angeles TV and radio host accused him of sexual harassment.
- His statement was widely panned online.
Sen. Al Franken apologized on Thursday after a Los Angeles TV and radio host named Leeann Tweeden accused him of sexual harassment.
In an article published on the website of the Los Angeles radio station 790 KABC, Tweeden accused the Minnesota senator of forcibly kissing her during a rehearsal in 2006 when the two were on a United Service Organizations tour to entertain military service members abroad. Tweeden also shared a photo she said showed Franken groping her while she was asleep.
“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” Franken said in a statement. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”
The statement did not appear to quiet critics, who blasted the senator for not going far enough.
Indeed, an hour later, the Minnesota Democrat released a lengthier statement saying he felt “ashamed” and “disgusted” with his past actions.
He apologized in more detail for the skit the two performed in, as well as past jokes he made during his career as a comedian.
“I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t,” Franken said. “And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.
During his time in the Senate, Franken has been an outspoken advocate for fighting sexual harassment, helping lead the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization. He also admonished the disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of serial harassment and predation of women.
Shortly after the news was released, senate leaders called for an ethics inquiry into Franken.
Read Franken’s full statement below:
“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. I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed. But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us-including and especially men who respect women-have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women. For instance, that picture. I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it-women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me. Coming from the world of comedy, I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren’t the point at all. It’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come to terms with that. While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences. I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate. And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”