A California radio host says Al Franken forcibly kissed her during a 2006 USO skit, and later grabbed her breasts while she slept during the same trip.
Leeann Tweeden, an anchor for TalkRadio 790 KABC in Los Angeles, published a blog post detailing the allegations Thursday morning.
The Democratic senator for Minnesota apologized via a statement, but had a different characterization for what happened.
Franken 'mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth'
Tweeden was on her ninth USO tour to entertain the troops in 2006, and Franken – who would announce a run for the Senate the following year – had written a skit for them, she explains in the post.
She described the show as "full of sexual innuendo geared toward a young, male audience," which was typical for the tours.
Tweeden says Franken pitched her a skit that included him coming in for a kiss. Before going on stage, he insisted they practice. She writes:
"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 says she "felt disgusted and violated" and tried to get to the bathroom "to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth" as fast as possible.
On the flight back home, while in her flak vest and kevlar helmet, Tweeden says she fell asleep, exhausted from the tour. And after arriving home, was shown this photo by her photographer:
"I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep. I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?
She then directly speaks to the now-senator, saying he "knew exactly: what he was doing when writing the skit, adding: "There’s nothing funny about sexual assault."
Franken's office responds
Franken, in a statement through a spokesperson, acknowledged the photo as wrong, but contradicted the story about rehearsing the skit.
"I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann," he said. "As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't. I shouldn't have done it."
Franken, in the book he released this year Giant of the Senate, talks about the impact USO tours had on his view of the Iraq War. He first went in 2003, and by his fourth straight trip there – 2006 – his experiences with the troops was a significant factor in deciding to run for office.
During his campaign, he faced criticism for things he'd said during his time with SNL, including a rape joke he made during a staff meeting on the show.