A California radio host came forward on Thursday with allegations that Sen. Al Franken groped and kissed her a decade ago without her consent.
Leeann Tweeden, the morning news anchor for KABC in Los Angeles and former model, says that she met Franken during a December 2006 USO tour.
Tweeden describes how the Minnesota Democrat repeatedly harassed her during the tour in a first-person piece published by KABC.
The former funnyman, who was elected to the Senate in 2008, wrote a script involving the two kissing that he wanted them to perform during the tour.
Tweeden, 44, says that the former “Saturday Night Live” alum made her increasingly uncomfortable after forcing her to rehearse the scene.
“He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss,” she wrote.
“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.”
Tweeden, a Virginia native who has modeled for FHM, Maxim and Playboy and hosted NBC’s “Poker After Dark,” said she felt “ felt disgusted and violated.”
“All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth,” she wrote.
Also on the trip were country artists Darryl Worley, Mark Wills, Keni Thomas, and cheerleaders from the Dallas Cowboys, according to Tweeden.
Franken, 66, cited the 2006 USO trip in his most recent book, “Al Franken: Giant of the Senate,” as the deciding factor in making the leap from comedy to the Capitol.
The married father of two detailed the four-hour show, performed in frigid temperatures, which ended in the singing of Toby Keith’s “American Soldier.”
“And spending two weeks with all these men and women who were risking far more than I would ever have to risk made me even more motivated to do as much good as I could, even if it would never compare to the sacrifices they were making for me and my fellow Americans,” he wrote.
Tweeden has a far different recollection of the tour.
“Other than our dialogue on stage, I never had a voluntary conversation with Al Franken again,” she wrote. “I avoided him as much as possible and made sure I was never alone with him again for the rest of the tour.”
Along with her account, Tweeden included a photograph of Franken placing his hands over her breasts while she appears to be asleep on an airplane.
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Tweeden, her eyes closed, wears a military-style helmet and flak jacket in the photo as Franken smiles at the camera and holds his hands over Tweeden’s chest.
“I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep,” she wrote. “I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.”
At the time of the tour Franken, known for his SNL character Stuart Smalley, was not a senator. He was elected in 2008 and took office in 2009.
“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” Franken’s office said in a statement. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called for a review of the allegations against Franken.
“As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter,” he said in a statement. “I hope the Democratic Leader will join me on this. Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable — in the workplace or anywhere else.”
Tweeden shared a link to her story on Twitter with the #metoo hashtag that has become a rallying cry against sexual assault in the wake allegations of misconduct against a rash of Hollywood bigwigs including megaproducer Harvey Weinstein.
“I’ve decided it’s time to tell my story. #MeToo,” Tweeden wrote.
Franken, in a statement last month, applauded women for coming forward with their allegations of sexual assault and called Weinstein’s behavior “appalling” and “far too common.”
She added that she felt compelled to come forward with her story after California Rep. Jackie Speier appeared on her show recently and detailed how she was sexually assaulted when she was a young congressional aide.
“At that moment, I thought to myself, Al Franken did that exact same thing to me,” Tweeden wrote.
Speier testified on Wednesday that two sitting members of Congress have engaged in sexual harassment, but she isn’t identifying them because the victims don’t want the lawmakers named publicly.
Speier, along with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), introduced a bill to overhaul the process of reporting sexual harassment on Capitol Hill.
Gillibrand called the allegations against Franken “deeply concerning.”
Speier said roughly $ 15 million in taxpayer money has been spent settling about 260 cases stemming from workplace discrimination in Congress, including sexual harassment, over the past 20 years.