(CBS) – Television host, sports broadcaster and model Leeann Tweeden says that , D-Minnesota, “kissed and groped” her without consent while entertaining troops on a USO Tour in December 2006.
Tweeden, a KABC radio news anchor, wrote in a post that among other entertainers present on the tour was former Saturday Night Live star Franken, the headlining comedian. She writes that parts of his act “were full of sexual innuendo geared toward a young, male audience.”
Tweeden explains that Franken wrote a part for her for a skit in the show, and the script directed that Franken’s character would lean in to kiss her.
“I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute, or put my hand over his mouth, to get more laughs from the crowd,” Tweeden wrote.
While rehearsing alone backstage one day ahead of the performance, Tweeden said that Franken told her “we need to rehearse the kiss.” She says she laughed it off, but Franken persisted, to which she responded something like, “Relax Al, this isn’t SNL…we don’t need to rehearse the kiss,” she says.
But Franken’s insistence continued, which Tweeden says made her uncomfortable. Eventually, she broke down and agreed to rehearse the kiss with him.
Running lines together leading up to the scene, Tweeden says that Franken then came at her and “put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.”
Tweeden recalls that she immediately pushed him off, told Franken to never approach her like that again, and walked away.
“I felt disgusted and violated,” she writes, adding that no one saw the incident and that she didn’t tell any authority figures on the tour about it.
Past their performances on the tour together, she “avoided him as much as possible” from then on.
Tweeden says that Franken began acting hostile toward her for the duration of the tour, including one instance when Franken groped her chest while she slept on a flight back to the United States from Afghanistan. The moment was captured in a photo:
“I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep,” Tweeden wrote. “I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.”
Tweeden says she told her husband of the groping incident, showing him the photo, but that she was hesitant to initially share her story publicly out of fear that backlash may affect her broadcasting career.
She explains that she still harbors anger toward the senator.
“You knew exactly what you were doing,” Tweeden writes, addressing Franken. “You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later, and be ashamed.”
Franken responded to the Tweeden’s story shortly after its publication Thursday morning.
“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it,” he said in a statement to CBS News.
Franken followed that a short time later with a longer statement that reads:
“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. There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine—is: I’m sorry.
“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.
“But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us—including and especially men who respect women—have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.
“For instance, that picture. I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.
“Coming from the world of comedy, I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren’t the point at all. It’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come to terms with that.
“While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.
“I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.
“And the truth is, 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.”
Tweeden’s story about Franken comes aswith what to do about numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.