Sen. Al Franken Issues Apology, Says He Respects Feelings Of Women Who He Made "Feel Badly"

Photo: Alex Brandon/AP Images.

Update: Following new accustations, Sen. Al Franken issued a Thanksgiving statement with regard to his behavior.

“I’ve met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations,” Franken wrote. “I’m a warm person; I hug people. I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many. Some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate, and I respect their feelings about that.”

Franken continued, writing, "I’ve thought a lot in recent days about how that could happen, and recognize that I need to be much more careful and sensitive in these situations. I feel terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again. And let me say again to Minnesotans that I’m sorry for putting them through this and I’m committed to regaining their trust."

Update, November 23, 2017: Two more women have come forward to accuse Sen. Al Franken of touching them inappropriately, bringing the total of women who have made accusations against him to four.

Both women spoke to HuffPo on the condition of anonymity, and both told stories of Franken groping them. The first accused him of groping her during a photo op at a campaign event in 2007, while the second said he cupped her behind at a 2008 fundraiser and then suggested they "visit the bathroom together."

In a statement, Franken told HuffPo, "“It’s difficult to respond to anonymous accusers, and I don’t remember those campaign events.” Further, Franken said, "I can categorically say that I did not proposition anyone to join me in any bathroom."

Update, November 20, 2017: A second woman has accused Sen. Al Franken of groping her, saying it happened while they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair.

Lindsay Menz, 33, said she and her husband met Franken at the fair in 2010, two years after he was elected. She said that when her husband was about to take a picture of her and Franken, the senator squeezed her buttocks.

"It wasn't around my waist. It wasn't around my hip or side. It was definitely on my butt," she told CNN. "I was like, oh my God, what's happening."

In a statement to CNN, Franken said he didn't remember taking a photo with Menz, but that he felt "badly" about the way she felt after their interaction.

"I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don't remember taking this picture," Franken said. "I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected."

This is the first time Franken has been accused of inappropriately touching someone while in office. He currently faces a potential investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee in the wake of the allegations brought by Leeann Tweeden, who said Franken groped her and kissed her forcibly in 2006.

This story was originally published on November 16, 2017, at 11:50 a.m. It has since been updated.

The TV host and sports broadcaster who accused Sen. Al Franken of kissing and groping her without consent in 2006 said she accepts his apology.

"The apology, sure, I accept it, yes. People make mistakes and of course he knew he made a mistake," Leeann Tweeden said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon. "So, yes, I do accept that apology. There's no reason why I shouldn't."

She added that Congress should decide whether there should be an ethics investigation into Franken's behavior. "People make mistakes. I’m not calling for him to step down. That’s not my place to say that," she said. However, she said that could change if more women come forward with allegations against the senator.

In an essay published on 790 KBAC on Thursday, Tweeden wrote that Franken assaulted her during a USO tour to the Middle East. She was one of several entertainers on the tour and Franken, then a comedian, was the headliner.

Tweeden said that while rehearsing for a skit in which she was supposed to kiss Franken, he "mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth." She wrote that it made her feel violated, since she hadn't consented to being kissed, and that she spent the rest of the trip avoiding him.

She said that after the tour wrapped, she fell asleep at one point during the 36-hour-long trip back to Los Angeles. It wasn't until she was back home, she said, that she saw a picture of Franken pretending to grope her breasts while she was asleep.

"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 decided to come forward after all these years because she was inspired by Rep. Jackie Speier's story on how she was assaulted by a superior when she was a young congressional aide. If Speier could speak up, so could she.

"I want to have the same effect on them that Congresswoman Jackie Speier had on me," 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."

Franken, a Saturday Night Live alum who was elected as the Junior U.S. Senator from Minnesota two years after the incident allegedly took place, reacted to Tweeden's essay in a statement Thursday morning.

"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."

On Thursday afternoon, Franken released a lengthier statement in which he apologized again to Tweeden and said he is open to being investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee.

“I respect women. I don't respect men who don't," he said. "And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed."

If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

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