Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden said she came forward with her allegations that Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., forcibly kissed her without her consent so other victims would be empowered to share their stories.
“Maybe I have a platform to speak out, because if he did this to somebody else or if anybody else has stayed silent or anybody else has been the victim of any kind of abuse, maybe they can speak out and feel like they can come forward in real time and not wait a decade or longer,” Tweeden said in an interview Friday on “Good Morning America.”
Tweeden claimed in a blog post Thursday that Franken, then a comedian, “forcibly kissed me without my consent” while rehearsing for a skit on a 2006 USO tour to entertain U.S. troops in Afghanistan. She also posted a photo in which she claims it shows Franken groping her while she was asleep on a military plane.
Tweeden said she had immediately wanted to go public with her account but she stayed quiet because it was a “different time” and her now-husband had warned that she would be “victimized” and her career would be ruined.
“So I stayed quiet, but I was angry,” Tweeden told “GMA.”
Tweeden said she was inspired by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., sharing her account of sexual assault as a young congressional aide.
“That happened to me…that was my sign. I think if I don’t speak up now, I’m going to forever hold that and keep it with me forever. That was my moment to speak up,” Tweeden said.
She went on, “I didn’t do this to have him step down. I think Al Franken does a lot of good things in the Senate. You know, I think that’s for the people of Minnesota to decide. I’m not calling for him to step down. That was never my intention.”
She added that using comedy as a guise for sexual harassment is “never funny” and hopes her experience will help change the national discourse on the issue.
Franken apologized Thursday to Tweeden, writing in a statement, “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.”
Franken said that he doesn’t know “what was in my head when I took that picture,” but said that “it doesn’t matter.”
“There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself,” Franken said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for an ethics investigation to look into the allegations. Franken welcomed the ethics investigation and said he will cooperate.