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Friday, 17 November 2017
US senator Al Franken issues apology for groping radio host as she slept
A US radio host says she felt "violated" when she discovered a photo of Al Franken with his hands on her chest as she slept.
A US senator has apologised after a radio host accused him of "forcibly" kissing her and groping her in a photo while she was sleeping.
Leeann Tweeden posted her claims against Minnesota Democrat Al Franken on the website of KABC, a Los Angeles radio station where she works as a news anchor.
The allegations relate to two incidents in 2006 when Franken, a former host of the Saturday Night Live show, was working as a comedian and the pair were preparing to perform before US troops in Afghanistan.
Tweeden said the 66-year-old - who says his actions have made him feel "ashamed" - wrote a skit that included a kiss between the two and said he insisted upon rehearsing it, which she at first resisted.
She wrote: "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."
She said she pushed Franken away but felt disgusted and violated.
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Tweeden also said the former comedian groped her while she slept during their flight home from Afghanistan.
She posted a photo taken on the trip in which Franken is shown grinning at the camera while putting his hands on her chest as she naps.
"I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated," Tweeden wrote. "How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it's funny?"
Franken quickly issued an apology in a statement, saying: "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.
"I don't know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn't matter. There's no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn't funny. It's completely inappropriate.
"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 realise were just plain offensive.
"I respect women. I don't respect men who don't. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed."
Tweeden said she accepted his apology but that he could have done it sooner.
Franken, who was elected to the Senate in 2009, echoed a call from senators that he be investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee, and said he would "gladly cooperate".
The accusations come just days after the Senate unanimously adopted mandatory sexual harassment training for members and staff amid a flood of harassment, sexual misconduct and gender hostility claims.