Broadcaster accuses Senator Al Franken of sexual harassment

Sen. Al Franken.    
   Mark Wilson  Getty Images

It was Leeann Tweeden - news anchor at TalkRadio 790 KABC in Los Angeles - who made her awful experience public through the radio's website, accusing the then comedian Al Franken of lewd behavior against her, before being elected as senator in 2008.

"I felt belittled. I was ashamed". As to the photo, it was clearly meant to be amusing but wasn't. Her account includes a photo of Franken posing for the camera as he reaches for Tweeden's breasts while she appears to be asleep. "Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable-in the workplace or anywhere else", McConnell said in a statement on Thursday. Tweeden was on her ninth USO tour and was known at the time for her work as a TV host, sportscaster and model.

Tweeden is the daughter of a service member, and she says that she's passionate about the troops and their mission overseas.

"Nothing like that is ever amusing", she said. "I don't know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn't matter".

"To say I was sorry for writing a joke was to sell out my career, to sell out who I'd been my entire life", Franken said.

Franken said he doesn't remember the kiss - part of a rehearsal for the USO show - as Tweeden does but he understands "why we need to listen to and believe women's experience". "We have no knowledge of it".

In the spiraling national conversation about sexual harassment, women on Capitol Hill also have recounted groping and unwanted advances from men and said that Congress lacks sufficient protections for them. In his first Senate run in 2008, two magazine articles written by or about Franken came to the surface that involved overtly-sexual satire that was called out for being depraved. Moore, 70, has denied the accusations and said he was the victim of a witch hunt.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer agreed the Ethics Committee should investigate.

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After an initial statement in which Franken apologized and said the photo showing him groping Tweeden was "intended to be amusing", the senator releases a second, longer statement apologizing and acquiescing to the calls for an ethics investigation.

For Senator Patty Murray, however, Franken's apologise "doesn't reverse what he's done or end the matter".

Franken mentioned Tweeden on the Senate floor in September 2010 and called her a "beautiful woman" during a speech about his past USO tours and the jokes he would tell regarding the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

"The behavior described is completely unacceptable".

Other Democratic senators have since weighed in on the allegations, supporting an ethics investigation into Franken's alleged actions.

Franken's Democratic Senate colleagues Clare McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand both expressed deep concern about the allegations. "I would have been long dead by now", she told reporters at the press conference.

"I'm telling my story because there may be others", she said.

"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".

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