Sen. Al Franken has issued an apology after radio host Leeann Tweeden accused him of kissing and groping her without her consent during a 2006 USO tour.
"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 obtained by PEOPLE.
Earlier on Thursday, Tweeden shared a personal essay she wrote for her Los Angeles-based radio talk show's website, in which she claims the Minnesota Democrat and Saturday Night Live alum kissed her without her consent and groped her while she was sleeping.
During the USO tour in the Middle East, Franken wrote a script that had him and Tweeden kiss. She wrote that at first she refused to rehearse the kiss, which she planned on refusing onstage in order to get some laughs, but eventually agreed once Franken kept pushing 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?”0comments
“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.