Sen. Al Franken broke his silence Sunday on sexual misconduct allegations, reportedly saying he’s “embarrassed and ashamed” but will not resign from the Senate.
“I’ve let a lot of people down and I’m hoping I can make it up to them and gradually regain their trust,” Franken, a two-term Democratic Minnesota senator, told the Star Tribune of Minnesota. Franken spoke to Minnesota news media eight days after the first allegations surfaced. He reportedly plans to also do interviews with Minnesota radio stations Sunday. Four women have publicly said Franken groped them, including one who said he forcibly kissed her.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow,” Franken, on Congress’ week-long Thanksgiving break, also said in the phone interview with the newspaper.
The first claim against Franken emerged nearly two weeks ago, when Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles radio host, said the senator forcibly kissed and groped her during a 2006 USO tour, before he was elected to the Senate. She said Franken kissed her while rehearsing a sketch. And later on the tour, Franken was photographed with his hands over Tweeden’s breasts, grinning at the camera, as she slept.
A second allegation was reported Monday. Lindsay Menz told CNN that Franken grabbed her buttocks in 2010 when they posed together for a picture at a Minnesota state fair, while he was a senator. Two other women have since anonymously reported such incidents to the Huffington Post. One woman said Franken groped her in 2007, during a photo at the Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus. The other said he cupped her backside with his hand in 2008 and suggested that they go to the bathroom together at a Democratic fundraiser in Minneapolis.
Franken’s office said last weekend that the senator will not resign, amid calls for him to step down.
The senator has repeatedly apologized to Tweeden. He also said he feels badly that Menz felt “disrespected” but that he does not remember the photograph being taken. Franken has said he has posed for “tens of thousands of photos” over the years but does not remember any in which he cupped a women’s backside, as several women have alleged. The senator also told the newspaper on Sunday that he has spent the past week “thinking about how that could happen and I just recognize that I need to be more careful and a lot more sensitive in these situations.” He said he didn’t expect such allegations would follow the first one. “I certainly hope not,” he said about the possibility of similar allegations surfacing.