Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) apologized and asked for an ethics investigation of a radio broadcaster's claims that he forcibly kissed and groped her.
KABC-AM news anchor Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of groping her in a photo and sexually harassing her during a USO tour in 2006, and the senator said he regrets his treatment of her.
“The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women," Franken said.
The Minnesota Democrat said he was "ashamed" that his actions could give anyone a reason to doubt his respect for women, but he said the recent wave of harassment claims against public figures has given men a new perspective on their behavior.
"I don't know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn't matter. There's no excuse," he 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. And, what's more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it — women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me."
Franken, a former comedian and writer for "Saturday Night Live," said he has written and told many jokes in the past that he later came to realize were offensive.
"The intentions behind my actions aren't the point at all," he said. "It's the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I'm sorry it's taken me so long to come to terms with that."
Franken said he doesn't recall the incidents described by Tweeden in the same way she does, and he called for a Senate ethics investigation and promised to "gladly cooperate."
"What people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories," Franken said. "They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”