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17 November 2017, 01:26 | Ruben Stone
Leeann Tweeden on CNN on Thursday. Screenshot CNN
In a first-person account at KABC, Tweeden says she was groped in December 2006 when she and the Democratic senator from Minnesota, then a comedian, were on a plane ride home from the Middle East, where they'd entertained troops as part of a USO tour. When it came time to rehearse the skit, she wrote, Franken insisted on kissing despite her protestations.
Franken has apologized and says he'll cooperate with an ethics investigation.
"I certainly don't remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann", Franken said in a statement provided to the Guardian. "As to the photo, it was clearly meant to be amusing but wasn't".
Speaking on CNN's "The Lead" with Jake Tapper on Thursday, Tweeden said that the incident, which occurred in 2006, before Franken was a senator, left her "so angry, I was in disbelief".
In her essay, Tweeden said she meant to participate in the comedy tour, hosted by the United Service Organizations, as an emcee.
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Appearing on MSNBC, the left-wing Hunt said, "And then [Franken] took a picture, which his office now says was a joke, that shows him not actually groping, but mock-groping her while she was asleep". "The ethics investigation, if that's what [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell wants to do, that's on them. I said "OK" so he would stop badgering me", she wrote. "And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed". "How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it's amusing?" But on the day of the show, Tweeden wrote, she was alone with Franken backstage when he told her, "We need to rehearse the kiss".
"I understand why we need to listen to and believe women's experiences", he said. "We're not going to fix the problems of sexual harassment and assault until men take responsibility for their actions and change their behavior".
The Minnesota senator spoke of this USO event on the House floor in 2010, in which he described Tweeden as "beautiful". "It isn't amusing. It's completely inappropriate", he said. "I was kind of a co-host with a handsome woman named Leeann Tweeden and we'd do comedy routines and introduce the music and introduce the cheerleaders".
In the spiraling national conversation about sexual harassment, women on Capitol Hill also have recounted groping and unwanted advances from men and said that Congress lacks sufficient protections for them. Women who come forward are fearless and deserve to be respected. I strongly condemn this behavior and the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation. "Maybe I can be somebody's Jackie Speier, and they can tell their story in real time".
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