WASHINGTON (AP) — Minnesota Sen. Al Franken apologized Thursday and faced a likely Senate ethics investigation after a Los Angeles radio anchor accused him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour. Fellow Democrats as well as Republican colleagues called for an investigation.
Leeann Tweeden also accused Franken of posing for a photo with his hands on her breasts as she slept, while both were performing for military personnel two years before the one-time comedian was elected to the Senate.
Tweeden posted the allegations, including the photo, on the website of KABC, where she works as a news anchor for a morning radio show.
Tweeden said Thursday that Franken was persistent, and "every time I see him now, my hands clench into fists."
Still, she said she has no reason not to accept his apology and is not calling for an ethics investigation or for Franken to resign. She told a news conference in Los Angeles that she came forward hoping to inspire others to tell their stories.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called the allegations "troubling" and said he hopes and expects that the Senate Ethics Committee will investigate.
"Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated," Schumer said.
Franken's fellow Minnesota Democrat, Amy Klobuchar, said, "This should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden. I strongly condemn this behavior, and the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation."
Franken initially released a brief statement in which he apologized, but questioned Tweeden's recollection of his behavior during their rehearsal for a skit. In a longer statement Thursday afternoon, he again apologized while maintaining that he remembered the rehearsal differently.
"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," he said. "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."
Of the photo, Franken said: "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."
Senate Democrats reacted swiftly and with one voice to the allegation that came as Republicans are grappling with allegations of molestation against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said Moore should step aside, quickly said the Senate should look into Franken.
"With all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter," McConnell said.