Spurring outrage toward Sen. Franken, Leeann Tweeden tells her story

By Alma Lizbeth Castro-Rendón, Contributor

As many now know, there is a scandal involving writer, comedian and Minnesota democratic Senator Al Franken and radio broadcaster, model and sports commentator Leeann Tweeden. This began when Tweeden released her version of events on the website KABC. Tweeden says that in 2006 she and Franken were preparing for the USO Tour in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan to entertain troops, and Franken had written the script meant to be performed.

Tweeden assumed that she was only going to “emcee and introduce the acts,” but Franken included her in the script. As she was reading the script, she noticed there was a part where Franken’s character was supposed to kiss Tweeden’s character, and she decided that she was going to turn her head at the last minute or put her hand over his mouth to get more laughs from the crowd. It all seemed to be going well until Franken suggested to “rehearse the kiss.” Tweeden reportedly said, “Relax, Al, this isn’t ‘SNL.’ We don’t need to rehearse the kiss.” However, Franken kept insisting.

Tweeden, annoyed and uncomfortable, agreed to practice the kiss so that he would leave her alone. As they said their lines leading up to the kiss, she wrote, “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 felt disgusted and violated.”

After the incident, Tweeden told him to never do it again. Although she decided to tell some of the people who were also on tour with her, she decided to not tell the Sergeant Major who was the sponsor of the tour as well the the USO representative.

Throughout the rest of the tour, Tweeden stayed away from Franken and didn’t speak to him unless she was doing the script. As if that wasn’t enough, upon the arrival in LA from the tour, Tweeden was sent all of the photos that had been taken during the tour. As she was clicking through the images, she saw a picture where Franken is smiling as he’s grabbing her breast.

She wrote, “He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep. I felt violated all over again … How dare anyone grab my breast like that and think it’s funny?” She told her husband about it but did not publicly accuse Franken until this year. The reason she did not publicly accuse him was because she “didn’t want to rock the boat.” She was there to entertain troops and make sure they forgot about where they were for a few hours.

Tweeden decided to speak up after California Congresswoman Jackie Speier spoke about the time she was sexually assaulted. Tweeden decided to share her story, hoping she could impact women the way Speier impacted her and motivated her to speak up.

In total, Franken has received accusations of sexual harassment from four women including Tweeden. Franken since then has apologized multiple times and said, “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.” He also told Minnesota Public Radio that he has not considered resigning and is willing to cooperate with any investigations and that the image was meant to be funny and that he does not remember the incident the way Tweeden does.

This article first appeared in the Friday, December 1, 2017, Edition of The Echo.