Woman Accuses Al Franken Of Molesting Her On 2006 USO Holiday Tour

news
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – Comedian Al Franken and sports commentator Leeann Tweeden perform a comic skit on camp Thursday in front of more than 2,000 servicemembers during the USO Sergeant Major of the Army’s 2006 Hope and Freedom Tour.
Adam Weinstein

Sen. Al Franken — the wry former Saturday Night Live comic who’s become a progressive darling as a Democratic senator from Minnesota — was publicly accused Nov. 16 of making unwanted sexual advances on a fellow performer while the two were on a winter 2006 USO tour “in the middle of a war zone” sponsored by the sergeant major of the Army.


The incident occurred on a stop of the USO Sergeant Major of the Army Hope and Freedom Live Show, which visited Kuwait and Afghanistan. Franken, a veteran of numerous USO shows since 1999, had billed the tour as being "in the tradition of Bob Hope.” He’d added: “Leeann Tweeden and I will host this event and it will include some mild political satire."

Comedian Al Franken poses with Staff Sgt. Allan Polasko of the 377th Theater Support Command and native of Madison Township, Ohio, during an autograph signing session at Third Army/U.S. Army Central headquarters on Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, on Dec. 14, 2006.Photo by Sgt. Thomas Day/40th Public Affairs Detachment

Tweeden, a radio commentator and model — pictured below with Franken on that tour in Kuwait — wrote in a post this morning for L.A.-based KTLA-790 AM that Franken cornered her backstage and pressured her into an embrace and a kiss on a flimsy pretext — that his script called for it:

He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.

He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. 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.

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.

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.

Not long after, I performed the skit as written, carefully turning my head so he couldn’t kiss me on the lips.

Tweeden added that no one had witnessed Franken’s violation, and she hesitated to tell anyone about it. “I didn’t tell the Sergeant Major of the Army, who was the sponsor of the tour,” she wrote. “I didn’t tell our USO rep what happened. At the time I didn’t want to cause trouble.” In a statement to Task & Purpose, USO spokeswoman Ashley McLellan confirmed that that the group had never heard the allegation before Thursday, but added: “The report is deeply disturbing and does not reflect the values of the USO.”

Sportscaster Leeann Tweeden and comedian Al Franken meet and greet Third Army/U.S. Army Central Soldiers during an autograph signing session at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, on Dec. 14, 2006.Sgt. Thomas Day/40th Public Affairs Detachment

Franken, however, topped that off by groping Tweeden, "without my consent, while I was asleep" — which she only learned about when seeing this photograph of him doing it after the fact:

In a statement Thursday morning, Franken apologized for his behavior. "I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann," he said. "As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

Al Franken and Leann Tweeden entertain the Soldiers with a skit at Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul, Iraq Dec 16. They were hosts of the United Service Organization's Christmas tour of bases in the Central Command area, partnering with Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston.Spc. Creighton Holub/U.S. Army

Since the outing last summer of Hollywood movie moguls Harvey Weinstein and James Toback as a serial sexual abusers and assaulters of hundreds of women, America’s cultural dam has burst forth with harrowing stories of women victimized and cowed into silence by men in positions of power.

In the wake of the Weinstein accusations, Franken had been one of the leading voices in the Senate condemning powerful men's sexual misconduct:

The latest such man had been Roy Moore, the outspoken evangelical former judge who’s running as a Republican for Alabama’s open Senate seat — and who now stands accused by seven different women of stalking girls between 14 and 18 at malls and high schools for dates when he was a prosecutor in his thirties.

Franken’s alleged behavior is now the latest of these revelations — though thus far, unlike Moore’s supporters, none of Franken’s backers have defended his alleged behavior:

Last month, Franken took to Facebook to talk about how to foster a safer culture for women. "I’ve realized that the disappointing responses women often face when they go public both embolden harassers and encourage victims to stay silent," he wrote.

He added: "We must do something to address this all-too-common problem."

Task & Purpose has reached out to Sen. Franken’s office and the USO for comment; we will update this story as new information comes to us.

Update, 12:20 PM EDT, Nov. 16: This post has been updated with the USO's comment.

Update, 12:50 PM EDT: Sen. Franken released the following statement in response to Leeann Tweeden's revelations:

A Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Kodiak boat crew displays their new 38-foot Special Purpose Craft - Training Boat in Womens Bay Sept. 27, 2011. (Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Charly Hengen)

A collision between a Coast Guard boat and a Navy vessel near Kodiak Island, Alaska on Wednesday landed six coasties and three sailors to the hospital, officials said.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Jamarius Fortson)

The Navy has identified the two Defense Department civilians who were killed in a shooting Wednesday at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Navy photo)

A shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida has left four people dead, including the gunman, law enforcement officials said at a Friday news conference.

The shooter and two victims were killed at the base and another victim died after being taken to the hospital, said Chip Simmons, deputy chief of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.

Another seven people remain hospitalized, including two sheriff's deputies who engaged the gunman, Simmons said at Friday's news conference. One was hit in the arm and the other was shot in the knee. Both are expected to recover.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Victoria Fontanelli, an administrative specialist with 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, moves through a simulated village inside the Infantry Immersion Trainer as part of training for the Female Engagement Team, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. Oct 16, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Brendan Custer)

Widespread sexism and gender bias in the Marine Corps hasn't stopped hundreds of female Marines from striving for the branch's most dangerous, respected and selective jobs.

Six years after the Pentagon officially opened combat roles to women in 2013, 613 female Marines and sailors now serve in them, according to new data released by the Marine Corps.

"Females are now represented in every previously-restricted occupational field," reads a powerpoint released this month on the Marine Corps Integration Implementation Plan (MCIIP), which notes that 60% of those female Marines and sailors now serving in previously-restricted units joined those units in the past year.

Read More Show Less
Sailors aboard the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Columbia (SSN 771) prepare to moor at the historic submarine piers at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam following a six-month Western Pacific deployment, June 6, 2018. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lee)

The troubled 22-year-old Pearl Harbor sailor identified as shooting three shipyard workers Wednesday and then killing himself may have come from a troubled ship.

Gabriel Romero, a sailor on the submarine USS Columbia, fatally shot two civilian workers and wounded a third while the Los Angeles-class vessel is in Dry Dock 2 for a two-year overhaul, according to The Associated Press and other sources.

Romero "opened fire on shipyard personnel with his M-4 service rifle and then turned his M9 service pistol on himself," Fox News Pentagon reporter Lucas Tomlinson reported, citing a preliminary incident report.

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam was not able to provide information Thursday on a report that multiple suicides have occurred on the Columbia.

Hawaii News Now said Romero was undergoing disciplinary review and was enrolled in anger management classes.

Read More Show Less