Thursday morning, KABC news anchor for McIntyre in the Morning Leanna Tweeden accused Senator Al Franken of assaulting her while the two were on tour for the USO in 2006. Franken was the show's headliner and head writer.
Tweeden published an essay for KABC in which she details her experience with Franken during the tour. She writes that Franken asked her to be in a skit that he had written which involved a kiss. Tweeden explained that the USO shows often leaned more on sexual and raunchy humor to entertain their audience of mostly young men. She claims that she was not shocked or surprised by the content of the show but that she planned to turn her head at the time of the kiss or place her hand over her mouth to avoid kissing him while still keeping the skit funny.
"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."
Tweeden says that she felt disgusted and immediately excused herself to rinse out her mouth in the bathroom. Franken and Tweeden went on to perform that skit throughout the tour, and she always turned her head at the time of the kiss as she had planned but she says that after that 'rehearsal' Franken's attitude toward her completely changed. She says that Franken grew hostile and cold, even aggressive. Franken drew devil horns on her headshot and she made sure to never be alone with him again.
For one last humiliation, on the flight home on Christmas Eve Franken went in for one final turn. Tweeden writes that she was so exhausted by the tour and ready to sleep for the long flight home she fell asleep still wearing her helmet and flak jacket. Franken took this opportunity to 'jokingly' grab her breasts over the jacket while she was asleep and have someone snap a photo knowing that she would see it and be embarrassed.
"I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep.
I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.
How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?
Senator Franken, you wrote the script. But there’s nothing funny about sexual assault.
You wrote the scene that would include you kissing me and then relentlessly badgered me into ‘rehearsing’ the kiss with you backstage when we were alone.
You knew exactly what you were doing. 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."
Tweeden is hopeful that her story will inspire even more women to come forward.
Senator Franken has released a lengthy apology and now joins a growing list of prominent men accused of sexual assault including other politicians.
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