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As Democrats (rightly) inveigh against Senate candidate Roy Moore’s gross behavior, one of their own senators has been accused. TV host and sports broadcaster Leeann Tweeden accused Sen. Al Franken (D–MN) of kissing and groping her without her consent on a 2006 USO Tour.
Three years before Minnesota voters sent Franken to the Senate, he performed as a comedian in a show for US troops in the Middle East. Because battle-weary troops love them some Stuart Smalley. Tweeden, a former model featured in FHM, Maxim, and Playboy, was only supposed to be the emcee but was surprised to see that Franken had written her into a skit.
When I saw the script, Franken had written a moment when his character comes at me for a ‘kiss’. I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute, or put my hand over his mouth, to get more laughs from the crowd.
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.
For the rest of the tour, Tweeden avoided Franken and made sure never to be alone with him. Franken responded with insults, and later, a creepy photo:
The tour wrapped and on Christmas Eve we began the 36-hour trip home to L.A. After 2 weeks of grueling travel and performing I was exhausted. When our C-17 cargo plane took off from Afghanistan I immediately fell asleep, even though I was still wearing my flak vest and Kevlar helmet.
It wasn’t until I was back in the US and looking through the CD of photos we were given by the photographer that I saw this one:
Thursday morning, Franken offered a weak apology through his press office. “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” he said. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”
Franken rose to prominence in the coke-fueled early days of “Saturday Night Live,” so I won’t be surprised if several other accusers step forward. And since sexual harrassment is rife on Capitol Hill, the Minnesota senator won’t be the last to be outed before this is all over. I suspect there are many nervous senators and congressmen who aren’t getting a lot of sleep these days.