This post has been updated with recent news developments.
Leeann Tweeden, who accused Democratic Sen. Al Franken of forcing her to kiss him and later groping her when they performed together at a 2006 USO show in Afghanistan, has commented on the Franken’s reaction to her story in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I’m not asking him to step down as senator,” Tweeden said. “I just wanted him to apologize to me for that.” She also said that she’d accepted both of Franken’s apologies, and added that his second, longer statement “did seem heartfelt, and I believe it.”
Tweeden, a former cover model and actress who is now a radio anchor in Los Angeles, recounted the allegations in an essay published Thursday morning. In it, she says she had expected to be an emcee at the USO event, which Franken, a comedian famous from Saturday Night Live who was later elected to the Senate from Minnesota, was headlining. But Franken had written a part for her in one of his skits in which he and Tweeden kissed.
On the day of the show Franken and I were alone backstage going over our lines one last time. He said to me, “We need to rehearse the kiss.” I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, ‘Relax Al, this isn’t SNL … we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’
He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.
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 writes that later, when she had returned to the U.S., she was looking through a CD of pictures from the trip when she found the photo, shown above, of Franken groping her while she was asleep on a plane back from Afghanistan. “I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated,” she writes.
Franken first issued a vague denial Thursday morning about Tweeden’s story about the kiss.
The senator later released a longer statement in which he apologized for the “completely inappropriate” photo and mentioned that he now considers some of the jokes he told during his comedy career offensive. While he maintained that he has a different recollection of the rehearsal than Tweeden, Franken also wrote, “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.”
Part of the skit with Franken and Tweeden on stage together seems to have been captured in this Salem News report.