Senator Warren: Al Franken’s Behavior ‘Unacceptable and Deeply Disappointing’

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Massachusetts’s senior U.S. senator, Elizabeth Warren, released a statement Thursday afternoon condemning the 2006 actions of Minnesota U.S. Senator Al Franken, her progressive colleague, the latest prominent politician to find himself ensnared in sexual assault and harassment allegations. 

Warren released her statement hours after one of her GOP challengers in 2018, state Representative Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman), released a statement of his own criticizing the Cambridge Democrat’s then-silence. Another GOP challenger, Winchester businessman John Kingston, proceeded to criticize Warren over her statement, saying Franken’s apology “is not enough” and adding that “true leaders take action on principle rather than hiding behind words, and Sen. Warren should call for her Democratic colleague to resign.”

A third Republican candidate running against Warren, former Mitt Romney aide Beth Lindstrom, took to social media to demand Franken’s resignation but as of Thursday afternoon has yet to comment publicly on Warren’s response.

On Thursday morning model and media personality Leeann Tweeden went public about her 2006 encounter with Franken, alleging that the funnyman-turned-politician kissed and groped her without her consent. In a viral post, the Los Angeles-based 790 KABC radio host also included a photo showing herself sleeping in a chair, with Franken appearing to be grabbing at her breasts:

The incident, according to Tweeden, occurred during a USO tour in the Middle East and was spurred by a comic skit written by Franken in which he “comes at me for a kiss.”

Franken, Tweeden claims, insisted on rehearsing the act:

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.

I felt disgusted and violated.

Franken has not disputed the allegations and has released an apology in addition to a statement calling for an ethics investigation into his own actions. 

After Tweeden’s allegations went viral, Diehl called on Warren to denounce Franken “now that he has admitted to sexually assaulting a woman.”

“Warren has made numerous videos with Senator Franken on a lot of issues,” Diehl stated. “Will she continue to make videos with him? More importantly, does she believe Franken should be able to serve in the Senate or not? Should he resign?”

Diehl in his statement also hammered Warren over accepting campaign donations from actor Ben Affleck, who apologized a month ago for groping an MTV host during a live event, and over accepting money from a political action committee led by embattled New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who today saw a jury return a deadlocked verdict resulting in a mistrial in his corruption case.  

Franken and Warren have previously produced videos together to promote various policy efforts. 

In a brief statement, Warren denounced Franken’s behavior but stressed that she feels “glad” he has agreed to an ethics investigation:

“The behavior reported today is unacceptable and deeply disappointing. I am glad Senator Franken has acknowledged as much and has agreed to cooperate with an ethics investigation. Women who come forward are brave and deserve to be respected. We’re not going to fix the problems of sexual harassment and assault until men take responsibility for their actions and change their behavior.”

Warren stopped short of calling for Franken’s resignation.

Franken’s apparent misdeeds occurred two years before he prevailed by a razor-thin margin over to unseat Republican U.S. Senator Norm Coleman. 

Tweeden’s decision to go public with her experience with Franken comes at a time when male lawmakers are facing  increasing scrutiny over their treatment of women. Roy Moore, who won the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in Alabama in the race to succeed current U.S. Attorney General and former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, has been on the receiving end of a wave of negative publicity after allegations surfaced regarding his actions with underage girls.