The sexual harassment purge is getting ugly.
Broadcaster and model Leeann Tweeden said Thursday that Al Franken “forcibly kissed” and groped her during a USO tour in 2006, two years before the Minnesota Democrat’s election to the U.S. Senate.
“You knew exactly what you were doing,” Tweeden wrote in a blog post for Los Angeles radio station KABC, for which she works as a morning news anchor. “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.”
The allegations came two days after a stunning hearing in Washington, where lawmakers acknowledged sexual harassment is a pervasive problem on Capitol Hill — and amid mounting sexual misconduct accusations against Alabama Republican Roy Moore, who has brushed off calls from Republican leaders to end his Senate campaign.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) immediately called on the Senate Ethics Committee to review the allegations against Franken, who issued a brief statement of apology.
Of course Mitch did. It took him three days to condemn Roy Moore, who groped several UNDERAGE girls, but he was on top of this within an hour.
In her blog post, Tweeden recalled that Franken “had written some skits for the show and brought props and costumes to go along with them. Like many USO shows before and since, the skits were full of sexual innuendo geared toward a young, male audience.”
Franken, she said, “had written a moment when his character comes at me for a ‘kiss’. I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute or put my hand over his mouth, to get more laughs from the crowd.”
But on the day of the show, she wrote, “Franken and I were alone backstage going over our lines one last time. He said to me, “We need to rehearse the kiss.” I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, ‘Relax Al, this isn’t SNL … we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’
He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.
He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘okay’ 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.
I felt disgusted and violated.
In a statement, Franken said: “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.”
Tweeden’s blog post included an image of Franken looking into a camera, his hands either over or on Tweeden’s chest as she slept.
This is that photo.
A few points:
(1) In the photo, I’m not sure he is touching her.
(2) I would feel much better if there was more than one accuser. While I am certain elements of her story are true, I wonder how much of it is exaggerated — in particular, the tongue down the throat. I’m not saying she is lying, but she may be mis-remembering it based on emotion.
(3) This is really really ugly, especially the art above. But, standing alone, it does not show a pattern of predatory behavior.
(4) Franken should pay for this — censure, for sure. I’m not 100% on board with resignation though, which many are calling for. I’m about 85% there.
Franken is doing this right —
A further thought:
I'm not defending Franken, but "People make mistakes" is not language used by victims traumatized by egregious acts of sexual harassment. Is there room to discuss the level of severity… or are Franken and Moore in the same boat? https://t.co/o4sr9ZPYPZ
— Ken Ashford With Pancakes 🕊 (@KenAshford) November 16, 2017