Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said on Sunday that he is “embarrassed and ashamed” about the allegations by multiple women of sexual harassment against him, but that he is “looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow.”
“I’ve let a lot of people down, and I’m hoping I can make it up to them and gradually regain their trust,” Franken told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I know I have a lot of work to do to regain the trust of the people I’ve let down, the people of Minnesota, my friends and colleagues, everyone who counts on me to be a champion for women.”
The comments are the first Franken has made publicly since the initial allegations were made against him. Earlier this month, radio host Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 holiday USO war zone tour and having a picture taken of himself with his hands over her chest while she was asleep on a transport military plane.
Three other women came forward with accusations that Franken groped them as they posed with him for photographs on three separate occasions between 2007 and 2010.
The 66-year-old senator and former “Saturday Night Live ” star said that he has taken “tens of thousands” of photos since first running for office and doesn’t recall the alleged encounters.
“I don’t remember these photographs, I don’t,” he said. “This is not something I would intentionally do.”
Franken told the Star Tribune that he has been “thinking about how that could happen” and needs “to be more careful and a lot more sensitive in these situations.”
The newspaper also asked Franken if he expects more women to come forward.
“If you had asked me two weeks ago, ‘Would any woman say I had treated her with disrespect?’ I would have said no. So this has just caught me by surprise,” Franken said. “I certainly hope not.”
In a Nov. 16 blog post, Tweeden said that Franken “mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth” during a rehearsal for a skit the pair were performing for U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2006. Tweeden told Franken she didn’t want to rehearse the kiss, but he insisted.
“I felt disgusted and violated,” Tweeden wrote.
Tweeden also posted the photo of Franken apparently pretending to grab her breasts as she slept aboard a military transport plane.
Franken apologized in a statement the same day.
“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” Franken said. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny, but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”
Shortly after Franken’s apology, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called for the Senate Ethics Committee to look into the allegations. Franken agreed, and said he would cooperate.
“While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences,” the senator said.
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