Politics

Franken Gives No Indication He Will Step Aside Amid Sexual Misconduct Accusations

‘I’m going to … go back to work’ for the people of Minnesota, Democrat says

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken speaks to reporters Monday outside his office in the Hart Building on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Al Franken is giving no indication that he will step aside from politics as he tries to move past a series of sexual misconduct allegations that first surfaced less than two weeks ago.

The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmaker addressed the media Monday afternoon outside his Hart Building office in his first appearance in Washington since he was thrust into the sexual misconduct hot seat.

“I’m sorry. I know there are no magic words I can say to regain your trust,” Franken said. “I know that’s going to take time. I’m ready to start that process.”

Watch: Franken ‘Tremendously Sorry’ After Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Franken has apologized to Leeann Tweeden, the Los Angeles radio host who published a personal essay on her news station’s website about her encounter with the senator while on a USO tour in 2006. Tweeden said the former comedian, who wasn’t a senator at the time, forcefully kissed her while rehearsing a scene backstage, an incident Franken has said he remembers much differently.

“I apologized to her and I meant it, and I was very grateful that she accepted it,” he said.

A second woman, Lindsay Menz, told CNN last week that Franken grabbed her backside while posing for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. After Menz came forward, two other women anonymously shared their stories with HuffPost about incidents in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

Franken said Monday he does not remember those encounters but is “tremendously sorry” if he made any woman feel uncomfortable around him.

“I take thousands of pictures with tens of thousands of people, so those are instances I do not remember,” he said. “From these stories, it’s been clear that there are some women — and one is too many — who feel that I have done something disrespectful and I have hurt them.”

“I know that I am going to have to be much more conscious in these circumstances, much more careful, much more sensitive, and that this will not happen again going forward,” he added.

The former “Saturday Night Live” cast member reiterated his intent to fully comply with any inquiry, including a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into his past behavior.

“We are going to cooperate completely with the Ethics investigation,” Franken said. “I know I let a lot of people down, the people of Minnesota, my colleagues, my staff, my supporters and everyone who has counted on me to be a champion for women.”

Another Midwestern Democrat, Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, came under fire last week after documents surfaced from his settlement with a former staffer in 2015 over sexual harassment claims.

The congressman acknowledged the settlement but “expressly and vehemently denied” the allegations that led to the roughly $27,000 payout.

Conyers’ problem became a party problem Sunday after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the 88-year-old longtime lawmaker was an “icon” for his work on women’s rights.

The California Democrat received considerable backlash for what many perceived as her defense of Conyers.

Franken signaled he wants to move forward in his current role and said he hopes he can eventually be “someone who can add something to this conversation” about the seriousness and consequences of sexual misconduct.

“I am embarrassed. I feel ashamed,” he said. “I’m going to start my job, go back to work, work as hard as I can for the people of Minnesota, and I’m going start that right now.”

Correction 4:29 p.m. | An earlier version of this story misstated the committee that will investigate the allegations against Sen. Al Franken

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