Republicans and Democrats, including Sen. Al Franken, called for an ethics investigation after the Minnesota Democrat acknowledged Thursday that he groped a journalist Leeann Tweeden during a 2006 U.S.O. tour.
Tweeden wrote of the encounter in a post published Thursday morning. She described how Franken, who was working as a comedian on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" at the time, forcefully tried to kiss her during a rehearsal for a skit the two performed before U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East. At the time, Tweeden was working as a TV host and sports broadcaster, as well as a model. A few days later, Franken also posed for a photo while groping her breasts while she was asleep in a military transport plane.
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.
Following the publication of Tweeden's account, Franken issued a brief apology.
"I certainly don't remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann," he said in a statement. "As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't. I shouldn't have done it."
But a few hours later, amid mounting calls for an ethics probe, he issued a longer mea culpa.
"I respect women. 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," Franken said. "I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate."
He added: "What people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them."