Democratic Sen. Al Franken is under intense scrutiny after a Los Angeles broadcaster, Leeann Tweeden, alleged that he committed sexual misconduct against her during a 2006 United Service Organisations tour in Iraq.
Tweeden alleged that Franken forcibly kissed her and appeared to grope her on camera while she was sleeping.
After the allegations surfaced Thursday, some drew attention to Franken’s response to the sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein, who donated to Franken’s campaign previously. Franken was among many Democratic senators who donated an equivalent amount of money that they received from Weinstein to charities focused on combating sexual violence.
In a lengthy Facebook post highlighting a column from former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, who ignited a wave of allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct at the major news outlet, Franken said he had “realised that the disappointing responses women often face when they go public both embolden harassers and encourage victims to stay silent.”
“The women who have shared their stories about Harvey Weinstein over the last few days are incredibly brave,” Franken wrote. “It takes a lot of courage to come forward, and we owe them our thanks. And as we hear more and more about Mr. Weinstein, it’s important to remember that while his behaviour was appalling, it’s far too common.”
Franken called for reforming arbitration laws that “prevent people who experience workplace harassment from going to court.”
Following Tweeden’s accusation, which was complete with a photograph of Franken reaching for her breasts while she was asleep, Franken said he “shouldn’t have done it.”
“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” he wrote. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”
Some Democrats, such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, said that response was insufficient.