UPDATE: Franken accuser accepts apology for sexual misconduct - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Franken accuser accepts apology for sexual misconduct

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (KTTC) -

A woman who says Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) forcibly kissed and groped her more than a decade ago has accepted the lawmaker's apology.

Leeann Tweeden, a news anchor for KABC-AM 790 TalkRadio in Culver City, Calif., wrote an article on the station's website -- accusing Franken of sexual misconduct in December 2006, before Franken became a senator.

In the article, Tweeden says she and Franken were on a USO tour to entertain American troops in the Middle East. Tweeden says Franken had written a skit involving his character kissing hers. Tweeden says Franken insisted on rehearsing the kiss, but she refused. Eventually, she agreed to it so Franken "would stop badgering [her]."

"He just mashed his lips against my face, and he stuck his tongue in my mouth so fast," Tweeden said during a news conference Thursday. "And all I could remember is that his lips were really wet, and it was slimy... And he stuck his tongue down my mouth, and I remember I pushed him off with my hands. And I just remember I almost punched him, because every time I see him now, like, my hands clench into fists, and I'm sure that's probably why.  And I said, 'If you ever do that to me again, I'm not going to be so nice about it the second time.'"

"And I just wanted to find a bathroom and I just wanted to rinse my mouth out," Tweeden added. "I was violated. I just felt like he betrayed my trust."

In her article, Tweeden also says Franken groped her while she was asleep during the plane ride home.

"I felt violated all over again," she wrote. "Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated."

"The fact that he just thought he could get away with it, and that it was okay, and that it was 'funny.' I mean, nothing like that is ever funny. I mean, is it funny if he does that to your sister or your daughter or your wife?," Tweeden said during the news conference.

After Tweeden's article was published, Franken issued a statement, saying in part:

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.

[...]

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."

[...]

I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.

(To read Franken's full statement, scroll to the bottom of this page.)

Despite the allegations, Tweeden said during Thursday's news conference she accepts Franken's apology.

"Yes, I mean, people make mistakes and of course, he knew he made a mistake. So yes, I do accept that apology," said Tweeden.

Since the allegations surfaced, many lawmakers have weighed in. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement he's "shocked to hear these reports."

"I will defer to the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee to investigate and act on this matter," Gov. Dayton said. "I know from serving in the Senate that the Committee has a well-established and highly-respected process for reviewing situations like this and making the right decisions.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) released the following statement:

This should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden. I strongly condemn this behavior and the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation. This is another example of why we need to change work environments and reporting practices across the nation, including in Congress.

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) spoke about the issue on Thursday as well.

"I find it troubling, Daudt said. "The photo is troubling when you see it. To say that sexual harassment is a joke trivializes what is a crime and trivializes victims. I find it deeply troubling. That's part of the problem. We can't call sexual harassment a joke. It's not a joke and it's a serious issue."

Additionally, Republican Party of Minnesota Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan is calling for Franken to resign.
 

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Another Minnesota lawmaker is now accused of sexually harassing a female reporter.

According to an article on KABC, a radio station in Los Angeles, written by Leeann Tweeden, she accuses U.S. Senator Al Franken of kissing and groping her during a USO Tour in December, 2006.

In the article, Tweeden writes that Franken, a comedian at the time, and her were doing line reading for a skit when 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."

Later on, Tweeden writes, that while returning from the tour, she fell asleep on the C-17 cargo plane. While she was asleep, Franken allegedly groped her. She writes that she didn't know he did that until she was back in the U.S. and looking through photos given to her by the photographer. (The photo is on the right hand side.)

Shortly after the story broke, Sen. Franken sent out this statement:

Here is his full statement regarding 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.”

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