Photo shows smiling Sen. Al Franken groping news anchor

Leeann Tweeden, pictured in 2005.
Leeann Tweeden, pictured in 2005.

Image: Getty Images

By Colin Daileda

UPDATE (11:15 a.m. ET, Nov. 20, 2017): A second woman has come forward with allegations that Sen. Franken “inappropriately touched” her in 2010.

News anchor and model Leeann Tweeden says Senator Al Franken kissed her without consent, and groped her while she was asleep during a 2006 United Service Organizations trip to put on performances for United States soldiers in the Middle East. 

Tweeden published her account on Thursday, and it includes a picture of Franken groping Tweeden after she fell asleep while wearing a helmet and flak vest.

Franken – then known as a comedian – performed on the tour. Minnesota elected him senator in 2009.

Tweeden writes that she was on the tour to emcee, but Franken wrote a part in one of his skits that had the two of them kiss. When he first told her they needed to rehearse the kiss, Tweeden says she laughed. But Franken wouldn’t stop.

“He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable,” she writes. “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.

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.”

Tweeden writes that she fell asleep on the plane home from Afghanistan. Someone photographed Franken groping her during the flight, and she saw the image while looking through pictures of the trip. 

“I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep.

I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.

How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?”

Angry but worried about what going public might do to her career, Tweeden didn’t speak out at the time. Now, she has. 

In response, Franken initially wrote that he doesn’t “remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way,” and said the photo “was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t.” He later followed that up with a larger statement. 

“The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women,” Franken wrote. “I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t. And the fact that my own actions have given people reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.”

That said, Franken still wrote that he doesn’t “remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does.”

Leeann Tweeden says she * does * accept Franken’s apology, she did note though that Franken had a chance to apologize to her years ago when they saw each other again.

— Juana Summers (@jmsummers) November 16, 2017

Tweeden accepted Franken’s apology, but said he could have apologized long ago.

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