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Mitch McConnell Wants an Investigation of Groping Allegations Against Al Franken

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling on the Senate’s ethics committee to review groping allegations against Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken, after a radio anchor said he kissed and groped her without her consent more than a decade ago.

“As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter,” McConnell said in a statement Thursday. “I hope the Democratic Leader [Chuck Schumer] will join me on this. Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable—in the workplace or anywhere else.”

Schumer took to Twitter shortly thereafter to call for an investigation. “Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated,” he wrote. “I hope and expect that the Ethics Committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment.”

Franken, in a statement released Thursday, said he is asking for and will fully cooperate with an ethics investigation.

Earlier Thursday, Leeann Tweeden wrote a post on the website of her radio station, 790 KABC, alleging that Franken kissed her without consent and later groped her breasts while she was asleep during a 2006 United Service Organizations tour in Afghanistan. She provided a photograph of the alleged incident.

“Every time I hear his voice or see his face, I am angry. I am angry that I did his stupid skit for the rest of that tour,” Tweeden wrote of her experience emceeing alongside then-comedian Franken. “I am angry that I didn’t call him out in front of everyone when I had the microphone in my hand every night after that.

“Someday, I thought to myself, I would tell my story,” she added. “That day is now. Senator Franken, you wrote the script. But there’s nothing funny about sexual assault.”

In a statement released Thursday, Franken apologized to Tweeden. He wrote:

The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine—is: I’m sorry.

I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.

But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us—including and especially men who respect women—have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.

For instance, that picture. I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.

Coming from the world of comedy, I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. 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.

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.

I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.

And 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. 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.”

On Monday, McConnell urged Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who is also battling sexual misconduct allegations, to “step aside.” McConnell doubled down on the sentiment a day later, telling reporters: “He’s obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate.”

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