Amid reports of rampant sexual harassment on Capitol Hill, a news anchor has accused the Minnesota senator of sexually assaulting her in 2006, during a USO Tour to entertain the U.S. armed forces in the Middle East and Afghanistan. On Thursday, Leeann Tweeden of KABC Radio posted what appears to be irrefutable evidence: a photo of Franken, a former comedian, smiling and looking directly at the camera as he seemingly groped her breasts while she slept.
And it actually gets worse. In Tweeden’s account, published by the Los Angeles radio station KABC 790, Franken first assaulted her during the tour. Franken had written a comedy skit in which he would have to kiss her, and he insisted on rehearsing the skit backstage, despite her protests. Per Tweeden’s account:
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.
Tweeden wrote that she chose not to alert her supervisors of the incident, so as not to “cause trouble” while in the middle of a war zone, and ignored Franken for the remainder of the tour. It wasn’t until she returned home to L.A., she wrote, that she saw the photo, taken during the 36-hour flight from Afghanistan to L.A. “I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated,” she wrote.
Every time I hear his voice or see his face, I am angry. I am angry that I did his stupid skit for the rest of that tour. I am angry that I didn’t call him out in front of everyone when I had the microphone in my hand every night after that. I wanted to. But I didn’t want to rock the boat. I was there to entertain the troops and make sure they forgot about where they were for a few hours. Someday, I thought to myself, I would tell my story.
Franken has already responded. Suffice it to say, this won’t cut it.