Democratic Sen. Al Franken is finally speaking publicly about recent allegations that he inappropriately groped or kissed four women.
The allegations began surfacing almost two weeks ago, but Franken has been largely silent about them for more than a week. On Sunday, he broke that silence by speaking to various media outlets in his home state of Minnesota.
In an interview with the Star Tribune, Franken, a 66–year–old former comedian and star of Saturday Night Live, said he is “embarrassed and ashamed.”
“I’ve let a lot of people down and I’m hoping I can make it up to them and gradually regain their trust,” he told the newspaper in a telephone interview.
Franken, who said he needed to be “more careful” and “more sensitive,” added that he plans to return to work on Monday.
In a second interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Franken said:
“I’m going to do my job and I’m going to go forward. I’m going to take responsibility. I’m going to be held accountable and I’m going to try to be productive in the way I speak about this.”
He said he had apologized to his accusers.
The allegations began when Los Angeles news anchor Leeann Tweeden accused Franken earlier this month of forcefully kissing her during a 2006 USO tour and then pretending to grope her while she slept, as seen in a now–infamous photo that has circulated widely.
Then, 33–year–old Lindsay Menz said Franken groped her during a 2010 photo op at a state fair. Her husband was taking the photo at the time, she said. Two more women came forward last Wednesday saying Franken also groped them, once at a 2007 Senate campaign event for the Women’s Political Caucus, and the other at a Minneapolis fundraiser in 2008.
“We have to listen to women and respect what they say,” Franken said on Sunday, adding that he didn’t specifically recall the incidents.
The Democratic senator will now face an investigation by a Senate ethics committee.