Sen. Al Franken has issued a response to allegations that he sexually assaulted news anchor Leeann Tweeden during a USO entertainment tour.
Tweeden accused Franken of forcibly kissing her during a skit rehearsal and shared a photo of Franken grabbing her breasts while she was asleep.
Franken said that he remembers the skit differently and said the photo was supposed to be a funny joke.
WATCH FRANKEN PREVIOUSLY DENOUNCE JOKES ABOUT SEX:
“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” Sen. Franken said in a statement. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”
“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,” Tweeden wrote in a piece of KABC. (RELATED: Woman Accuses Senator Al Franken Of Molesting Her During USO Tour)
Tweeden said she was only expected to emcee the entertainment tour but Franken had written her into a skit where the two kissed. She says Franken kept insisting they rehearse the kiss before the show and when she finally agreed he “mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.”
“I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated,” Tweeden wrote. “How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?”
UPDATE (12:56 PM, November 16, 2017):
Sen. Franken released a longer statement responding to the allegations.
“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. There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine—is: I’m sorry.
“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.
“But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us—including and especially men who respect women—have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.
“For instance, that picture. 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. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.
“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 realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren’t the point at all. It’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come to terms with that.
“While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.
“I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.
“And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”