Embattled Minnesota Sen. Al Franken said that he “crossed a line” with his conduct when taking pictures with women, four of whom have accused him of sexual harassment.
“I’ve met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations. I’m a warm person; I hug people,” Franken said Thursday in a statement to his hometown newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many.”
Franken’s statement did not address any criticism that he should step down from Congress, and the senator ended his note saying that he was “committed” to regain trust of voters in Minnesota.
On Nov. 16, Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles radio host and broadcaster, claimed that during a 2006 USO tour, Franken “kissed and groped” her. Tweeden included a photo of herself and Franken at the time of the incident. “I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter,” Franken responded to the claim on the same day. “There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself.”
The senator, who was elected to Congress in 2008, said that he would cooperate with an ethics investigation over the claim. Leading Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell both called for an investigation.
On Monday, a Texas woman named Lindsay Menz made a claim to CNN, saying that she had attended the Minnesota State Fair in the summer of 2010 and took a picture with Franken. She claims that the senator “pulled me in really close, like awkward close, and as my husband took the picture, he put his hand full-fledged on my rear.”
In response to the allegations, 36 women who had previously worked with the comedian during his Saturday Night Live days signed a letter Tuesday defending the character of the senator but acknowledging that his conduct toward Tweeden was “stupid and foolish.”
“We would like to acknowledge that not one of us ever experienced any inappropriate behavior; and mention our sincere appreciation that he treated each of us with the utmost respect and regard,” read the female SNL staffers letter. Franken worked for the NBC variety show as a writer beginning in 1975.
On Wednesday, two more unnamed women came forward to HuffPost with accusations of “inappropriate touching” in incidents in 2007 and 2008. Franken told the news outlet, “It’s difficult to respond to anonymous accusers, and I don’t remember those campaign events.”
Franken’s full Thursday statement to the Star Tribune follows:
I’ve met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations. I’m a warm person; I hug people. I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many.
Some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate, and I respect their feelings about that. I’ve thought a lot in recent days about how that could happen, and recognize that I need to be much more careful and sensitive in these situations. I feel terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again.
And let me say again to Minnesotans that I’m sorry for putting them through this and I’m committed to regaining their trust.