- Democratic Sen. Al Franken was accused on Thursday of kissing and groping a woman without her consent.
- He has apologised, but his Democratic colleagues in the Senate have stopped short of calling for him to step down.
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats shied away from immediately addressing sexual misconduct allegations on Thursday against their colleague, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken.
Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of groping and kissing her without consent during a United Service Organisations trip to entertain American troops in the Middle East in 2006. Tweeden’s article in which she detailed the allegations against Franken also included a photograph of him grabbing her chest while she was sleeping.
After the allegations surfaced, Franken’s Democratic colleagues largely avoided members of the press looking for their reactions to the sexual misconduct. Among those who did address the allegations, there was a general feeling of disappointment in the former comedian turned lawmaker.
“I was amazed,” said Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy. “Because one, it’d be inappropriate but also is not something I’d expect from Senator Franken.”
“Sexual harassment and groping are never OK,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “And Senator Franken will have to address the allegations in the article.”
“It’s very sad to hear about,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who sits on the Senate Ethics Committee, declined to comment on Franken, noting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already filed a request to investigate.
Franken issued a lengthy statement following the allegations, expressing regret for his actions and requesting an investigation by the Ethics Committee.
“I respect women,” Franken said in the statement. “I don’t respect men who don’t. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.”
Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin said she was glad Franken “apologised immediately.”
Sen. Tim Kaine was measured in his response to Franken’s apology.
“The sufficiency of an apology is measured by what the person thinks of it, so I’m not gonna judge the sufficiency of the apology,” Kaine said. “But I think that the behaviour is unacceptable.”