“I’m telling my story, because there may be others.”
Texas Insider Report: WASHINGTON, D.C. — Democrat Senators scrambled and quickly went into damage control mode to contain the fallout of sexual assault allegations against Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) after a multiple women accused Franken of kissing and groping them without their consent, one during a USO Tour in 2006.
Franken skipped the Senate’s four floor votes, and a closed-door Democratic Caucus lunch, avoiding being seen in public throughout the day. A spokesman for Franken refused to respond to a request for comment about his schedule, but sources told CNN that the senator apologized to his staff on Thursday.
The allegations against Franken caught Democrat Senators flat-footed, with several declining to comment on the record. A photo showing Franken ’s hands hovering over one of the woman’s breasts, while she was apparently asleep, shook Democrat Party ranks at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Leeann Tweeden, a morning news anchor for KABC in Los Angeles, wrote on the 790 KABC website Thursday that Franken crafted a skit with her that included a kissing scene during her 9th USO Tour to entertain U.S. Troops in the Middle East. She said Franken pressured her to practice the routine, insisting that they rehearse the kiss backstage over her objections.
“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,” Tweeden writes.
He then aggressively kissed her despite her objections. “I felt disgusted and violated. I tried to let it go, but I was angry.
Also on the trip were country music artists Darryl Worley, Mark Wills, Keni Thomas, and some cheerleaders from the Dallas Cowboys. Her story includes a photograph of Franken putting his hands over her breasts while she was asleep on a military transport plane.
“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. (right.)
“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?” Tweeden, a former model, wrote.
“I’m telling my story because there may be others.”
Democrat Senators Quickly Distanced Themselves from Franken
The allegations turned the tables on national Democrats, after Republicans have been facing questions about Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore, who is facing multiple 35+ year-old allegations of sexual misconduct.
Several Democratic senators distanced themselves from Franken, who had been considered a potential dark horse for the party’s presidential nomination in 2020.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (right, D-NY) who earlier in the day told the New York Times that in hindsight, President Bill Clinton should have resigned because of his sexual misconduct with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, said, “I feel very strongly that Roy Moore should not be a senator, and I feel strongly that if he is elected that the Senate should have its own response to it.
She added that she did not believe Franken’s initial apology was sufficient.
“I expect to hear more from Sen. Franken on this issue,” Gillibrand said when asked if Franken should resign from the Senate.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL,) the 2nd Ranking Member for U.S. Senate Democrats, said Franken’s behavior was “wrong.”
Asked if Franken should resign, Durbin said, “No, no, no, no. I think you go through the ordinary due process. And have this thing judged on its merits,” he said.
- Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) noted that he couldn’t talk because he needed to vote, and “I don’t like to miss votes.”
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA,) who frequently ignores reporters around Capitol Hill, avoided questions.
- Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) remained silent as reporters asked her about Franken, as well as drilling in the arctic.
- “What I saw was horrible. We’ve got to make it clear that this is not humor. This is about power issues, gender issues,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD).
- Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVA) appeared flabbergasted as he spoke to a swarm of reporters, repeatedly saying that he wanted to speak with Franken.
- Democrat Senators Jeanne Shaheen (NH,) Brian Schatz (HI,) and Chrisotpher Coons (DE) said they couldn’t comment because they are members of the Ethics Committee.
- Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL,) asked if she thought Franken’s accuser was credible, added, “I tend to believe her. I think that women should be able to feel safe and free in their workplace, and if that there are such allegations they should come forward,” she added.
“I just heard. I just heard, and I would like to hear from Al. I just want to hear from Al. I just want to hear Al’s explanation,” said Manchin.
Fallout Spills Over into 2018 Elections
Franken isn’t on the ballot in 2018, but the fallout over his sexual assault allegations quickly spilled over into the 2018 midterm elections, where Democrats face a challenging map. Republicans and other outside groups quickly demanded that Democrats, in particular senators running in states carried by President Trump, give back any campaign donations received from Franken or his PAC.
But by late Thursday afternoon, Democrats were rushing to donate Franken’s campaign cash.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) released statements Thursday afternoon calling on the Democrat Senators up for reelection, including Manchin and Senators Jon Tester (MT), Bill Nelson (FL) and Heidi Heitkamp (ND) give back any campaign donations received from Franken or his PAC.
Tester, asked if the NRSC was going too far, said, “I haven’t been focused on this. Have they asked the people who contributed to Roy Moore to ask for their money back?” Tester asked. He later said he would donate $25,000 in donations “to support the important work” of the Montana Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence.
In addition to Tester, Democratic Senators:
- Tammy Baldwin (WI)
- Sherrod Brown (OH)
- Bob Casey (PA)
- Joe Donnelly (IN)
- Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
- Heidi Heitkamp (ND)
- Joe Manchin (D-WVA)
- Claire McCaskill (MO), and
- Bill Nelson (FL) each said they would be re-donating their contributions from Franken.
“Claire McCaskill must denounce her Democrat colleague and return campaign donations she has received from him. If McCaskill won’t immediately denounce Franken and return his donations, it will be clear she puts partisan politics over basic decency,” said Bob Salera, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).
Franken Response Frustrates Democrat Senate Colleagues
Sen. Franken later Thursday released a statement saying he didn’t “remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny, but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”
That appeared to frustrate some of his colleagues, who were quick to say they believed Franken’s accuser.
Democrats were quick to try and get out ahead of Franken, coalescing behind a possible Senate Ethics Committee Investigation after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) publicly urged the committee to review the matter.
“I hope and expect that the Ethics Committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (above center, D-NY). “Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated,” Schumer said.
But Schumer, like most Democrats on Thursday, did not respond to a question about whether Franken should resign.
Asked if an investigation could lead to the committee recommending that the Senate expel Franken, Durbin added, “It could lead to any number of things. It’s not fair to prejudge it or judge what the committee will do.”
Nelson, whom Franken was supposed to headline a fundraiser for this weekend, added that, “as for the events this weekend, Sen. Franken is no longer available.”
Source: Texas Politics