US Senator Al Franken issues apology after groping allegation

Franken says he feels "disgusted with myself" when he looks at a photograph shared by Leeann Tweeden

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Minnesota Senator Al Franken. Picture by: Ricky Bassman/Zuma Press/PA Images

11:29 17 Nov 2017 Newstalk 11:29 Friday 17 November 2017

A US senator has apologised after a radio host accused him of "forcibly" kissing her and apparently groping her while she was sleeping.

Leeann Tweeden posted her claims against Minnesota Democrat Al Franken on the website of KABC, a Los Angeles radio station where she works as a news anchor.

The allegations relate to two incidents in 2006 when Franken, 66, a former host of the Saturday Night Live show, was working as a comedian and the pair were preparing to perform before US troops in Afghanistan.

Tweeden said Franken wrote a skit that included a kiss between the two and said he insisted upon rehearsing it, which she at first resisted.

"He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said 'OK' so he would stop badgering me," she wrote.

"We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth."

She said she pushed Franken away but felt disgusted and violated.

Tweeden also claimed the former comedian groped her while she slept during their flight home from Afghanistan.

She posted a photo taken on the trip in which Franken is shown grinning at the camera while putting his hands towards her chest as she naps.

"I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated," Tweeden wrote. "How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it's funny?"

Franken quickly issued an apology in a statement, saying: "I certainly don't remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann.

"As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't. I shouldn't have done it.

"I don't know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn't matter. There's no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn't funny. It's completely inappropriate."

Tweeden said she accepted his apology but that he could have done it sooner.

Franken, who was elected to the Senate in 2009, echoed a call from senators that he be investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee, and said he would "gladly cooperate".

The accusations come just days after the Senate unanimously adopted mandatory sexual harassment training for members and staff amid a flood of harassment, sexual misconduct and gender hostility claims.

US President Donald Trump was quick to slam Franken in the wake of the allegations, taking to Twitter to claim the picture "speaks a thousand words":

The last week has seen Republicans dealing with their own high-profile scandal, after a woman claimed that Judge Roy Moore - the Republican candidate in Alabama for a vacant US Senate seat - 'initiated a sexual encounter' when she was 14 and he was 32.

Moore has denied the claims, and refused to step aside as candidate despite calls from GOP leaders.