*The snowballing outcry over sexual harassment reached the Senate on Thursday, after a radio newscaster accused Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, of kissing and groping her without consent during a 2006 U.S.O. tour of the Middle East before he took public office.
Leeann Tweeden published a first-person account of the incident on KABC Radio in Los Angeles on Thursday. She wrote that it occurred not long before Christmas that year, when she was a performer for the tour alongside Franken, then a well-known comedian. Tweeden was then a Fox Sports Network correspondent and model.
According to Tweeden, Franken wrote a vulgar script that included a kiss for the two to perform onstage. When it came time to rehearse, she wrote that Franken insisted on practicing their kiss.
“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,” 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.
Tweeden said that no one else witnessed the kiss, and she did not tell the tour’s organizers. She said Franken retaliated against her with insults and, she learned after the trip ended, a compromising photograph.
Tweeden tweeted her story earlier today along with the photo in question, showing Franken groping her breasts while she slept.
— Leeann Tweeden (@LeeannTweeden) November 16, 2017
Tweeden said the picture 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?”
Sen. Franken issued an apology immediately after the story went public, but it was criticized for not going far enough. His office then issued a second, longer mea culpa.
“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,” he continued. “And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.”
Read in full below:
NEW FRANKEN STATEMENT pic.twitter.com/c3puSkK9Ts
— Sam Stein (@samstein) November 16, 2017
Watch Tweeden tell her story below: