Comedian Al Franken and sports commentator Leeann Tweeden perform a comic skit December 15, 2006, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. on Thursday, Tweeden accused Franken of sexual misconduct while on the USO tour. File Photo by SSgt. Patrick Moes/U.S. Army
Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., offered his "sincerest apologies" to a woman who accused him of kissing and groping her without permission in 2006, and called for an ethics investigation into his actions.
Television host and sports broadcaster Leeann Tweeden revealed the allegations in a post on the website of KABC-Radio in Los Angeles. She said Franken acted inappropriately toward her in 2006 while they were on a USO tour overseas.
Tweeden said Franken, a writer and actor who had not yet been elected to the Senate, had prepared skits for the two to perform. In one skit, there was a kiss she said Franken wanted to rehearse.
"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," Tweeden said.
In another incident, she said Franken groped her chest through a flak vest she was wearing while traveling from Afghanistan to Los Angeles. She had fallen asleep and a photographer captured an image of Franken acting as if he were touching her breasts.
"I couldn't believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep," Tweeden said. "I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated."
Franken first issued a statement early Thursday saying he doesn't remember the forced kiss.
"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."
He later issued a longer statement, denouncing his conduct in the photo and saying he "didn't know what" was going on in his head when he posed for it.
"The truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories," Franken said. "They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them."
Franken echoed a call by other members of the Senate, like Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who said there should be an ethics investigation into his actions.
"I understand why we need to listen to and believe women's experiences," Franken said. "I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate."
Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Claire McCaskill also have added their voice to the call for an investigation.