leeann tweeden al franken assault

“Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.” Leeann Tweeden Shares Her Story of Al Franken Sexual Assault

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As we are all far too aware, the eternal epidemic of sexual harassment and assault is not limited to Hollywood. It’s not limited to any industry or any political standing. We hear about men like Harvey Weinstein building careers on abuses of power, but this isn’t just something that film producers do. We hear about Roger Ailes and Roy Moore and Donald Trump, but abuse isn’t just perpetrated by conservatives. Today’s accusations against ultra-liberal Senator Al Franken are proof of that.

Leeann Tweeden is a radio news anchor in Los Angeles, and today she’s published her story of assault at the hands of Franken. In 2006, then a model and sports correspondent, Tweeden embarked on a USO tour (her ninth), which was being headlined by Franken, who had not yet run for office but was then a comedian, SNL alum, and radio host.

Tweeden describes the skit Franken wrote for them to perform for the troops, which included a kiss between the two. She says they were backstage running lines, and Franken said they needed to rehearse the kiss. The kiss he wrote into in the script he created for her.

Tweeden objected, but he was insistent.

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.

Tweeden said she didn’t tell any sort of authorities about the incident at the time, for so many of the same reasons women often feel shamed into silence: she didn’t want to seem unprofessional or like she couldn’t take care of herself, and she didn’t want to risk her future in their shared industry.

That incident occurred during the first show of their tour. Tweeden says she avoided Franken after that and other than their dialogue onstage, she “never had a voluntary conversation with Al Franken again.”

After she’d returned home, though, she was looking through the CD of photos they were all given by the tour’s photographer and saw this one, taken on their flight home. In it, Tweeden has fallen asleep, and Franken is smiling at the camera, groping (or possibly miming groping as some apparent shadow experts online are arguing–THAT’S NOT BETTER) her chest.

I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep.

I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.

How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?

This is horrible. It’s horrible when any man abuses his power and status to assault and humiliate women and shame them into silence. And yes, it is disappointing to see this coming from one of the strongest progressive voices in the Senate. In no way does that shield him from his own despicable behavior.

If all the conservative pundits could stop assuming we wouldn’t care about this, it might

Conservative pundits, please stop pretending like you give one shit about women and what men do to them. Please stop using the abuse of women as ammunition against your perceived political enemies. You’re not fooling anyone.

No one is saying he shouldn’t resign, or be held accountable for his actions. (And the few people who are are being rightfully called out for their terrible opinions.) Everyone screaming online that “the mainstream media will never cover this” clearly hasn’t looked at the headlines on a single news site today. No one is ignoring this. EVEN FRANKEN HIMSELF is calling for an ethics investigation, as is Mitch McConnell, and it’s really weird to agree with Mitch McConnell.

Al Franken’s disgusting behavior is proof of what women have known for literally ever: no “type” of man is immune from being complete garbage.

(via KABC, image: Wikimedia Commons)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.