November 16, 2017 10:53 PM
Political leaders locally and nationwide are responding to allegations from Los Angeles radio anchor Leeann Tweeden, who says during a 2006 USO tour Democratic Sen. Al Franken forcibly kissed her and posed for a photo with his hands on her breasts as she slept.
MN Senate Leader Paul Gazelka said regarding the photo:
"Incredible disappointment." He added, about sexual misconduct in general: "The light being shined on this nationally is overall a good thing."
Speaker of the MN House Kurt Daudt said:
"This photo is pretty troubling when you see it. And to say that sexual harassment is a joke, I think it trivializes what is a crime."
But both Gazelka and Daudt said due process is important before making judgments on all of the allegations.
State auditor and Democratic governor candidate Rebecca Otto went further, calling on Franken to resign:
"Al Franken is my friend, but we can't have a double standard. This is a larger issue that goes beyond political figures and Hollywood. Sexual harassment affects women in every part of society. I believe it's in the best interest of Minnesotans and of women everywhere for Senator Franken to resign, and to set an example to powerful men across America that sexual harassment will not be tolerated."
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar released the following statement in response:
"This should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden. I strongly condemn this behavior and the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation. This is another example of why we need to change work environments and reporting practices across the nation, including in Congress."
In response to the allegations, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said:
"I was shocked to hear these reports this morning. I will defer to the US Senate Ethics Committee to investigate and act on this matter. I know from serving in the Senate that the Committee has a well-established and highly-respected process for reviewing situations like this and making the right decisions."
Rep. Keith Ellison, deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, said:
"I'm deeply disturbed by what I read today. It took extraordinary bravery for Leeann Tweeden to come forward. Al Franken has been a good friend of mine for years, but we as a progressive community must take her words seriously, and fully commit ourselves to creating a world free from sexual harassment and assault."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Ethics Committee should review the complaints. In a statement, McConnell said:
"As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter. I hope the Democratic Leader will join me on this. Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable - in the workplace or anywhere else."
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer says sexual misconduct allegations against Minnesota Sen. Al Franken are "troubling" and he hopes and expects that the Senate Ethics Committee will fully investigate.
Schumer says, "Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated."
He said a bipartisan ethics panel should "fully investigate this troubling incident, as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment."
Speaking at Thursday's White House press briefing, spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "On Sen. Franken, it appears the Senate is looking into that, which they should, and we feel that is an appropriate action."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren called the alleged behavior "unacceptable and deeply disturbing."
Warren said she's glad Franken made the acknowledgement and has agreed to cooperate with an ethics investigation.
The Massachusetts Democrat says women who come forward with their stories are brave and deserve to be respected. She said the country can't fix the problem of sexual harassment until men take responsibility for their actions.
Rep. Betty McCollum echoed the support for a formal inquiry:
"The Senate Ethics Committee should conduct a formal inquiry into the disturbing allegations made against Senator Franken. The account and photo released today can only be described as completely inappropriate."
Rep. Tom Emmer said the matter should be taken seriously:
"Any and all allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault deserve our attention and must be taken very seriously. The American people put their trust in elected officials, which makes allegations against lawmakers especially concerning. Standing up for victims and against harassment and assault is not a partisan issue and I support investigations into any claims against elected officials."
Rep. Jason Lewis responded to "ongoing news stories relating to sexual harassment and sexual assault."
"As I have said many times, the whirlwind of sexual harassment—and now even sexual assault—incidents by people in positions of public trust are extremely troubling. Suffice it to say, anyone who commits sexual assault isn't fit for public office. I continue to believe the best lesson we can learn from all of this is to recommit ourselves to restoring respect for women—in fact, for everyone, in society."
U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp says the are concerning and that Franken's apology "does not excuse the behavior."
The North Dakota Democrat says she supports an ethics investigation into her Minnesota colleague.
Heitkamp says society has been "far too tolerant and dismissive" of sexual harassment allegations, and that cases that are now coming to light are "a sea change that is very important."
Minnesota GOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan issued the following statement in response via her Facebook page:
"Today's allegations of sexual harassment committed by Senator Al Franken are deeply disturbing. Based on these allegations, and the accompanying photographic evidence, I am calling on Senator Franken to resign his Senate seat. The people of Minnesota deserve better representation than this in the United States Senate. Al Franken's weak, equivocating apology isn't going to cut it. To quote Senator Franken just yesterday - 'sometimes when you don't get a joke, it's because it wasn't a joke.'"
Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin said Tweeden is "courageous" for sharing her story:
"The Minnesota DFL commends Leeann Tweeden for courageously coming forward to share her story. We are incredibly disappointed in Senator Franken. As each of one of these stories comes out, it becomes even clearer how pervasive sexual harassment is throughout our society. We must create a culture of zero tolerance for sexual harassment, and that starts with holding people accountable for their inappropriate actions. The DFL supports and calls for a thorough Senate ethics investigation into Senator Franken's behavior. There is no excuse for his actions, whether they occurred before he was in the U.S. Senate or not.
"We also need to do more to deter sexual harassment in the first place. It is clear that our elected officials, candidates, and activists need comprehensive training on what constitutes appropriate conduct, and we have now mandated such training for all campaigns receiving official party support."
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said the allegations against fellow Democratic Sen. Al Franken are "disturbing" and should be investigated.
Gillibrand has been outspoken about sexual harassment in the military. She stopped short of saying Franken should step aside. She said Franken's explanation that he was joking was insufficient.
Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth said she takes Tweeden's allegations seriously.
"I believe her, and if there's an ethics investigation, that should move forward as well."
Congressional candidate Angie Craig said she plans to donate the money Franken has contributed to her campaign.
"As of today, I have donated $15,000 in campaign contributions received from Senator Franken during the 2016 and 2018 election cycles to 360 Communities in Burnsville, which operates sexual assault survivor services, domestic violence shelters, and food shelves for our neighbors."
Craig also called for "zero tolerance" of inappropriate behavior "regardless of political party."
DFL Representative and candidate for governor Erin Murphy said she believes Tweeden:
"I'm a believer in redemption. I believe in learning from mistakes and growing. But I'm also someone who strongly believes that sexual assault is never ok or acceptable, and never something we can excuse or stand by. For too long in this country, we have laughed it off, looked the other way, or blamed and shamed the victims of assault and harassment.
"Ms. Tweeden has said that Sen. Franken assaulted her. I believe her. While with his statements he has expressed contrition, he also acknowledged the painful truth in her words.
"It's not ok. It's never ok. And by doing anything but saying so we are condoning it and sending the message that such conduct really is ok for a person in power. I await Senator Franken's full explanation but I also believe he should lead by example and step aside.
"We need to invest in the training, tools, and empowerment needed to change this horrible part of our culture. It's time for it to stop."
Franken released a full statement in response to the allegations, which can be found here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Updated: November 16, 2017 10:53 PM
Created: November 16, 2017 11:46 AM
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