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Democratic Senator Al Franken apologises for forcibly kissing, groping radio host

Al Franken’s conduct was referred to the Senate Ethics Committee for further investigation.

world Updated: Nov 17, 2017 22:23 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Al Franken,Democratic Senator,Sexual assault
File phot of Senate Judiciary Committee member Senator Al Franken at Capitol Hill in Washington. A Los Angeles radio host says Franken forcibly kissed her during a 2006 USO tour in the Middle East.(AP )

A Democratic senator accused by a woman of forcibly kissing and groping her 11 years ago during a tour of military bases abroad, has apologised for his behaviour.

Al Franken, the senator from Minnesota, is the latest to be hit by an avalanche of allegations of sexual harassment by powerful men.

Franken moved swiftly to issue a statement apologizing to the victim, Leeann Tweeden, a TV broadcaster, and seeking an investigation of his conduct from a time preceding his term in the senate, by the chamber’s ethics committee, joining calls from both parties.

He owned up the accusation by his victim and apologized.

“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,” Franken wrote.

“I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t,” he added. “And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.”

Franken, a former comedian and writer for Saturday Night Live TV show, is the latest in a string of powerful men accused of sexually assaulting women that started with disclosures about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and has since scalped others such as journalist Mark Halperin and actor Kevin Spacey.

Here is what the victim had to say about it in a piece she wrote: “On the day of the show Franken and I were alone backstage going over our lines one last time. He said to me, ‘We need to rehearse the kiss.’ I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, ‘Relax Al, this isn’t SNL…we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’

“He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.

“He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. 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.

“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.

“I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth.

“I felt disgusted and violated.”

First Published: Nov 17, 2017 09:58 IST