Sen. Al Franken has issued a new statement on Thursday following his apology for groping TV host and sports broadcaster Leeann Tweeden in 2006. In the statement, he again apologizes and then calls for an ethics investigation into his behavior.
New statement from Al Franken: "I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate." pic.twitter.com/TjLLexatMe— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 16, 2017
"I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences," he said. "I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate."
Here is Franken's statement in full:
“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.”
Earlier Thursday morning, Tweeden wrote a personal essay for her radio show's website in which she claimed that Franken kissed her without her consent and groped her breasts while she slept while they were on a USO tour in the Middle East.
She said that Franken wrote a kiss with her into a script for a skit he was performing to entertain the troops. Although her duties on tour didn't include acting, she decided to play along. She also wrote that she refused to rehearse the kiss, which she planned on refusing once onstage to get some laughs, but eventually gave in once Franken continued to push the issue.
"I said ‘OK’ 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 wrote in the piece for KABC.
“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,” she added.
Tweeden said she felt “disgusted and violated” after the incident but that she didn’t tell anyone at the time.
Once the tour was over, Tweeden discovered a photo of Franken with his hands on her chest.
“It wasn’t until I was back in the U.S. and looking through the CD of photos we were given by the photographer that I saw this one,” she wrote. “I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?”
“I wanted to shout my story to the world with a megaphone to anyone who would listen, but even as angry as I was, I was worried about the potential backlash and damage going public might have on my career as a broadcaster,” she wrote.
“But that was then, this is now. I’m no longer afraid,” she added.
Franken apologized on Thursday after Tweeden's essay published. "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," Franken said in a statement.