Sen. Al Franken is finally speaking up. After only communicating through written statements since the first allegation of sexual misconduct arose, Franken reached out to Minnesota media outlets on Sunday to say he’s ready to return to work on Monday. “I’m embarrassed and ashamed. I’ve let a lot of people down and I’m hoping I can make it up to them and gradually regain their trust,” said Franken, who has been accused of misconduct by four different women. “I’m looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow,” he told the Star Tribune.
A week and a half after the first allegations surfaced, Franken said that despite shame over his conduct he has no plans to leave the Senate. “I’m going to do my job and I’m going to go forward. I’m going to take responsibility. I’m going to be held accountable and I’m going to try to be productive in the way I speak about this,” he told Minnesota Public Radio.
The senator and former comedian said he doesn’t remember that he inappropriately groped women while taking photos with them, as several have alleged. “I don’t remember these photographs, I don’t,” he said. “This is not something I would intentionally do.” But he did say that the photo that shows him holding his hands above the chest of Los Angeles radio anchor Leeann Tweeden was “inexcusable.” He said he was “ashamed of that photo” because “she didn’t have any ability to consent. She had every right to feel violated by that photo.”
When local CBS affiliate WCCO asked Franken whether his credibility as a progressive force in the Senate had been undermined, he agreed. “Yes…I have a long way to go to win back the trust of the people of Minnesota,” Franken said. “I am just very sorry.”
Franken has called on the Senate Ethics Committee to look into his behavior and vowed to fully cooperate with the investigation. “I’m going to take responsibility. I’m going to be held accountable through the ethics committee,” Franken said. “And I’m going to hopefully be a voice in this that is helpful … Again, I respect women. What kills me about this is it gives people a reason to believe I don’t respect women.”