Another woman has accused Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) of sexual misconduct, bringing the total number of women who have come forward with allegations against the lawmaker to five.
CNN’s MJ Lee reports that Stephanie Kemplin, an army veteran, says Franken groped her breast during a photo op that took place while he was on a USO tour in 2003.
“When he put his arm around me, he groped my right breast. He kept his hand all the way over on my breast,” Kemplin told Lee. She said the touching lasted five to 10 seconds and that “it was long enough that he should have known if it was an accident.”
A spokesperson for Franken issued a statement saying that Franken has taken “thousands of photos” and “never intentionally engaged in this kind of conduct.”
But three other women have also come forward to say that Franken inappropriately touched them during photo ops. And another, Leeann Tweeden, says that Franken forcibly kissed her and then groped her while she slept.
This comes after a third and fourth accuser came forward to the Huffington Post
The Huffington Post reports that two women, both of whom wished to remain anonymous, say Franken groped their behinds during photo ops. Both alleged incidents occurred before the former Saturday Night Live star became a US senator, though Franken had already announced he was running for the seat.
One woman, a 38-year-old book editor, said Franken touched her when she posed for a photo with him after a performance at the Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus in Minneapolis in June 2007. “I saw him and asked if we could take a photo together for my mother, and we stood next to each other … and down his hand went,” she told HuffPost.
The second woman said she met Franken at a Democratic fundraiser in Minneapolis in the fall of 2008. She recounted that she and a friend approached Franken and asked for a picture. The woman said the then-candidate put his arm around her waist for the photo, then lowered his hand and “cupped” her butt:
In order to escape the situation, the woman excused herself to go to the bathroom. At that point, she said, Franken leaned in and suggested that he accompany her. She grabbed her friend and fled to the bathroom without him.
Franken, in a statement to HuffPost, denied that part of the story: “I can categorically say that I did not proposition anyone to join me in any bathroom.” As for the allegations that he touched the women, the Minnesota lawmaker said it was “difficult to respond to anonymous accusers, and I don’t remember those campaign events.”
Another woman said the senator grabbed her butt — this time while he was a senator
The two women who spoke to HuffPost each told a story very similar to what Lindsay Menz recounted. Menz was the second woman to come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Franken — this time while he was serving as senator.
Menz, a 33-year-old woman, said the senator grabbed her butt while the two of them were taking a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, CNN first reported:
Then, as her husband held up her phone and got ready to snap a photo of the two of them, Franken “pulled me in really close, like awkward close, and as my husband took the picture, he put his hand full-fledged on my rear,” Menz said. “It was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek.”
Menz said she told family members at the time, and had posted on Facebook about the incident:
Menz posted the photo with Franken on Facebook at the time, on August 27, 2010. Her sister, Cari Thunker, commented under the photo: “Sorry, but you two aren’t Bibles (sic) width apart” — a reference, Thunker explained to CNN, to how physically close Menz and Franken were in the photo.
Menz responded to her sister on Facebook: “Dude — Al Franken TOTALLY molested me! Creeper!” (The exchange is visible to Menz’s Facebook friends.)
Franken has responded to the allegations, saying he doesn’t remember the photograph and that he feels “badly” that the woman felt “disrespected.”
“I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don’t remember taking this picture,” Franken told CNN in a statement. “I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected.”
Al Franken has welcomed an ethics investigation into his misconduct. There are now five allegations.
Leeann Tweeden, a radio host for KABC in Los Angeles, was the first woman to allege misconduct. She recounted having to perform a skit with Franken, who has served in the US Senate since 2009, and said the then-comedian forcibly kissed her during a rehearsal and then posed in a photograph groping her while she slept.
Tweeden wrote her story for the KABC website, at the end of which she addressed Franken directly:
Senator Franken, you wrote the script. But there’s nothing funny about sexual assault.
You wrote the scene that would include you kissing me and then relentlessly badgered me into “rehearsing” the kiss with you backstage when we were alone.
You knew exactly what you were doing. You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later, and be ashamed.
In Franken’s initial response to Tweeden’s story, he said he didn’t remember the rehearsal in the same way and chalked up the photograph to a failed attempt at comedy.
“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.”
Then the senator released a second statement, and said he is asking for an ethics investigation to be undertaken, with which he would “gladly cooperate.”
“I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny, but later came to realize were just plain offensive,” Franken said in his second statement. “But the intentions behind my actions aren’t the point at all. It’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come to terms with that.”
[email protected]: “The first thing I want to do is apologize” pic.twitter.com/U6BWpzaPVM
— Alex Rogers (@arogDC) November 16, 2017
According to Tweeden’s account, Franken, a former Saturday Night Live cast member, wrote a skit with a kissing scene for the two of them while performing for troops in the Middle East. He insisted on the two of them rehearsing the kiss, despite Tweeden’s resistance, at which point she says, “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,” Tweeden writes. “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.”
Later on the trip, while she was sleeping in her flak vest and Kevlar helmet, Franken posed in a photograph with his hands on her breasts.
Tweeden said she went public with the story after bringing Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), who started a video campaign to encourage women in Congress to come forward with their own sexual harassment experiences last month, on her radio show.
I’ve decided it’s time to tell my story. #MeToohttps://t.co/TqTgfvzkZg
— Leeann Tweeden (@LeeannTweeden) November 16, 2017
Allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein launched a national conversation about sexual harassment and assault, and women across industries have begun coming forward with their stories of assault in recent months on social media, tagging their posts with the hashtag #MeToo. This, Tweeden said, was her #MeToo story — and ultimately one that Menz said inspired her to come forward as well.
With Menz’s recounted experience and now the stories of two other women, there are five total allegations of sexual misconduct against the senator — one while he was in office.