Al Franken Issues Apology After Accusation of Forcible Kissing and Groping

He continued the tweet in a cruder manner: “Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 6 while she sleeps?”

Earlier, response from Republicans and Democrats alike was swift and unsparing. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, the Senate leaders, wasted no time before forwarding the matter to the Senate Ethics Committee — a move supported by Democrats, including Mr. Franken. Lawmakers did stop short of meting out a punishment on a fellow senator, and it appeared that Mr. Franken would be able to weather the disclosure.

“As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement. “Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable — in the workplace or anywhere else.”

Democrats gave Mr. Franken no quarter.

“This is unacceptable behavior and extremely disappointing. I am glad Al came out and apologized, but that doesn’t reverse what he’s done or end the matter. I support an ethics committee investigation into these accusations and I hope this latest example of the deep problems on this front spurs continued action to address it,” said Patty Murray of Washington, one of the most senior Democratic women in the Senate.

The realm of comedy, which spawned the charges against Louis C.K., has been particularly suspect, and Mr. Franken, who emerged from “Saturday Night Live” as a nationally known celebrity, appeared to acknowledge that.

“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,” he wrote. “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.”


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Ms. Tweeden published a first-person account of the incident on KABC Radio in Los Angeles on Thursday. She wrote that it occurred in December 2006, not long before Christmas, when she was a performer for the tour alongside Mr. Franken, then a well-known comedian. Ms. Tweeden was then a Fox Sports Network correspondent and model. U.S.O. tours are meant to boost morale among American troops abroad and typically include celebrity entertainment.


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She also presented evidence, including a photograph of Mr. Franken, his head turned toward the camera, with his hands placed over Ms. Tweeden’s breasts as she slept.

According to Ms. Tweeden’s account, Mr. Franken wrote a bawdy script that included a kiss for the two to perform onstage. When it came time to rehearse the skit, she wrote, Mr. Franken insisted on kissing despite her protestations.

“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,” Ms. Tweeden wrote. “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,” she added.

Ms. Tweeden said that no one else witnessed the kiss, and she did not tell the tour’s organizers. She said Mr. Franken retaliated against her with insults and, she learned after the trip ended, the compromising photograph.

Ms. Tweeden said the photograph was taken while she was asleep on a flight back to the United States from Afghanistan and that she saw it only later, after the trip ended.

“I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated,” she wrote. “How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?”

Speaking on air on KABC Thursday morning, Ms. Tweeden, a former model, said that women were too often blamed for provoking male aggression based on their looks or clothing. She told reporters later that she would accept Mr. Franken’s apology.

“The apology? Sure. I accept it,” she said. “People make mistakes.”

Asked if she would call on Mr. Franken to step down, Ms. Tweeden said no, barring the emergence of new accusations.


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“That’s not my place,” she said.

Ms. Tweeden wrote that she had been compelled to share the story after an on-air conversation with Representative Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, who has been a leading voice sounding alarms about sexual harassment on Capitol Hill in recent weeks.

“I want to have the same effect on them that Congresswoman Jackie Speier had on me,” Ms. Tweeden wrote. “I want them, and all the other victims of sexual assault, to be able to speak out immediately, and not keep their stories — and their anger — locked up inside for years, or decades.”

Ms. Speier and others have labored to force Congress to begin grappling with sexual aggression that has long been a part of work life on Capitol Hill. She testified at a House hearing on the topic on Tuesday that helped draw increased scrutiny of the sort that has already begun to take place in Hollywood, Silicon Valley and newsrooms in New York and Washington.

Mr. Trump has also been accused of sexual harassment. Shortly before the presidential election last year, a 2005 recording surfaced that showed Mr. Trump speaking in vulgar terms about women. The recording captured Mr. Trump speaking about pushing himself on women and bragging that he could get away with “anything” because of his celebrity.

Others have recounted unwelcome romantic advances and unsettling workplace conduct, including at the offices of Trump Tower and backstage at beauty pageants.

Even before the accusations against Mr. Franken, lawmakers in both the Senate and House had moved to begin mandatory anti-harassment training for all Capitol Hill employees and interns.

Ms. Tweeden’s story came one day after Ms. Speier and four other lawmakers, including Representative Ryan Costello, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Representative Bruce Poliquin, Republican of Maine, introduced legislation to overhaul the way sexual harassment and assault are reported in Congress.

Congressional aides, lawyers and lobbyists say the existing system is convoluted, and has long been stacked against those wishing to speak out against an abuser: The current process requires nondisclosure agreements and can take up to six months before a formal complaint is filed.


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The proposed legislation would make anonymity optional, as well as require lawmakers to reimburse the United States Treasury for paying out any settlements to victims.

While his fellow senators rushed to rebuke him, Mr. Franken hunkered down out of sight, skipping four votes in the Senate and the Democrats’ regularly scheduled luncheon.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Mr. Franken’s fellow Minnesota Democrat, condemned his actions and like other senators called for an Ethics Committee query.

“This should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden,” Ms. Klobuchar said. “This is another example of why we need to change work environments and reporting practices across the nation, including in Congress.”

Senator Johnny Isakson, the Ethics Committee’s Republican chairman, cited committee rules in saying that he could not comment on a prospective investigation.

Republicans, eager to talk about sexual accusations other than Mr. Moore’s, tried to turn the allegations to their political favor. The campaign committees of Republican Senate and House candidates sent out a blizzard of news releases demanding that Democrats denounce Mr. Franken and return campaign contributions that he had made.

Lisbeth Kaufman, who worked for Mr. Franken during his first term while she was in her mid-20s, said Mr. Franken never behaved inappropriately in the office to her knowledge, and recalled him as a focused and intelligent lawmaker.

“There are predators on the Hill for sure,” Ms. Kaufman, 31, said in an interview. “And there are so many terrible stories. I’ve heard them myself. I’ve never heard such stories about Senator Franken.”

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