- Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
- TV host Leeann Tweeden has alleged that Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota once kissed and groped her without consent in 2006.
- She accused him of aggressively kissing her and sticking his tongue in her mouth during a rehearsal for a skit meant to be performed for military service members.
- Later, Franken groped her breasts while she was asleep, an incident she said she did not discover until she later saw a photograph.
Los Angeles TV broadcaster Leeann Tweeden alleged in a 790 KABC column that Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota kissed and groped her without her consent in 2006, while she was part of a United Service Organizations tour to entertain military service members abroad.
Tweeden said that Franken had been headlining the tour and wrote a comedy skit in which Franken’s character attempted to kiss Tweeden’s character. Tweeden said she believed she could turn her head or cover his mouth with her hand “to get more laughs from the crowd.”
But during a rehearsal of the kiss that Franken repeatedly insisted on, Tweeden said, Franken forcefully kissed her.
“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,” Tweeden wrote. “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.”
Tweeden said she felt “disgusted and violated” by the kiss and pushed Franken away and told him that if he ever did that again, she “wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.”
Later, the pair performed the skit and Tweeden said she turned her head to dodge Franken’s kiss.
She added that she told neither the tour’s sponsor, the Sergeant Major of the Army, nor the USO representative about the incident.
“At the time I didn’t want to cause trouble. We were in the middle of a war zone, it was the first show of our Holiday tour, I was a professional, and I could take care of myself. I told a few of the others on the tour what Franken had done and they knew how I felt about it,” Tweeden wrote. “I tried to let it go, but I was angry.”
But Franken’s alleged misconduct didn’t end there, Tweeden said. Franken groped her breasts while she was asleep during the 36-hour trip back to Los Angeles – an incident captured in a photograph that Tweeden didn’t see until she was back in the US.
— Leeann Tweeden (@LeeannTweeden) November 16, 2017
“I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep,” she wrote. “I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. … How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?”
Tweeden said she told her husband about Franken’s behavior and showed him the photograph. She said she did not speak publicly about the incidents because she was worried about backlash and damage to her broadcasting career.
But thanks to the slew of recent public allegations made against prominent figures such as film producer Harvey Weinstein, Tweeden said she is no longer afraid to come forward.
“Senator Franken, you wrote the script,” she wrote. “But there’s nothing funny about sexual assault … You knew exactly what you were doing. You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later, and be ashamed.
“I’m telling my story because there may be others.”
In a statement sent to Business Insider, Franken apologized to Tweeden.
“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,” he said.