TV host and sports broadcaster Leeann Tweeden came forward on Thursday to accuse Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) of kissing and groping her without her consent in 2006. She even has a photo to prove it.
The incident took place in December 2006, she said, when she and Franken, then a comedian, were on a USO Tour to “entertain our troops.”
“It wasn’t until I was back in the U.S. and looking through the CD of photos we were given by the photographer that I saw this one,” she wrote in a piece on KABC on Thursday. “I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?”
Tweeden wrote that Franken, who was headlining the tour, had written some skits and said he had a part for her, adding that she “agreed to play along.”
“When I saw the script, Franken 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,” she wrote. “On the day of the show, 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.’”
Franken wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“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. 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,” she wrote. “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.”
Feeling disgusted and violated, Tweeden noted that as angry as she was, she didn’t tell anyone what happened and tried not to make a big deal about it at the time. However, she knew that the story would surface someday.
Subsequently, when on a plane back to the United States, Tweeden fell asleep; she later saw a photo of Franken groping her without her knowledge.
“I wanted to shout my story to the world with a megaphone, to anyone who would listen, but even as angry as I was, I was worried about the potential backlash and damage going public might have on my career as a broadcaster,” she wrote.” But that was then, this is now. I’m no longer afraid.”
Tweeden issued a direct statement to Franken in her op-ed, writing, “Senator Franken, you wrote the script. 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.”
Franken has since issued an apology for his actions in a statement obtained by Variety.
“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” he said. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”
— Meridith McGraw (@meridithmcgraw) November 16, 2017
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