Sportscaster and model Leeann Tweeden compared Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein during a radio interview where she first revealed details of how the senator had forced his tongue into her mouth and later groped her during a USO tour.
She said when they first met in Washington, DC before the tour began, he told her, “When I found out you were coming on this tour, I wrote, you know, a little scene, if you will, with you in it, if you would like to do it with me, if you want to play along.”
She said the skit was “full of sexual innuendos,” and that since they were performing to a military audience with mostly young men, that she could play along with that. She said there was a kissing scene that he wrote in, but she thought it would be a “gag” kiss.
“In my mind, I was never actually going to kiss Al Franken,” she said.
She said on the day of the tour, in Kuwait, they were backstage as everyone else was setting the stage up.
“Al came up to me and he’s like, ‘Well, we need to rehearse our kiss,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, OK,’ and I just blew him off, you know, ’cause I’m thinking we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.
“Then he kind of said it again, he’s like, ‘Well, we need to rehearse the kiss Leeann.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, Al, OK you turn your head to the right, I’ll turn my head to the right, OK we got this.'”
She said Franken started getting “relentless,” comparing him to Weinstein.
“And he actually got more … as I tell this, I’m getting worked up and I’m shaking … as he — it reminded me, remember when we played the Harvey Weinstein — when the girl in New York actually wore the wire and we listened to him, and the only audio we heard of Harvey Weinstein and he was very aggressive and very relentless …
“Yes, it was relentless, that’s what I could hear in his voice,” she said of Franken. “He started getting relentless, and I’m like, why is he insisting that we have to rehearse the damn kiss?”
Franken told her that as “actors” they needed to rehearse everything, and she finally agreed, just to get him to stop.
She said Franken mashed his face against hers and stuck his tongue in her mouth.
“We rehearse the line and I’m coming towards him and he comes up and he grabs me and he puts his hand behind my head and he aggressively comes in and he mashes his mouth against mine and he sticks his tongue in my mouth and as it happens, it happened so fast and he puts his tongue in my mouth and his mouth is just wet and slimy and to this day I call him ‘fish lips.'”
Tweeden said she was so angry she wanted to punch him the face. She remembers pushing him off, warning him never to do that again, and going to a bathroom to wash out her mouth.
“I was violated, I was disgusted, that’s not what I was expecting, all I could think about was that’s what you wrote that in the script for, so you could do that to me?”
For the rest of the tour, she made sure she was never alone with him, and when seated next to him to sign photographs, she would turn her back on him, she said.
Country music star Darryl Worley, sportscaster Leeann Tweeden and comedian Al Franken meet and greet Third Army/U.S. Army Central soldiers during an autograph signing session at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Dec. 14, 2006 pic.twitter.com/suTZQsQ0xE
— Dave Brown (@dave_brown24) November 16, 2017
She said he would passively aggressively harass her during the rest of the trip, doing things like drawing devil horns on one of her head shots. Later when she got home, as she was looking through official photos from the trip, she found one where he was pictured with his hands over her breasts while she was sleeping.
“Smiling, laughing with this smirk on his face,” she said. “It’s just that mentality that he thought he could get away with it. And that it was funny. And that’s it’s funny that you can grab someone’s breasts while they’re sleeping and just thinking, ‘Hey, I can get away with this.'”
Tweeden said did not speak out earlier because she worried about her career.
“People are going to go, ‘Oh you’re a model, you’ve been on the cover of Playboy. You’re a lingerie model and a swimsuit model, and a sportscaster and a girl in Hollywood. It was not going to be worth the hassle.”
Tweeden said in all her years as a model, sportscaster and USO tour host, she had never been treated like that.
“Nobody’s ever come up to me and grabbed me and stuck their tongue in my mouth and feel like they can get away with it,” she said.
Tweeden said she was inspired to share her story by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), who recently testified that the same thing had happened to her when she was younger.
She said she doesn’t want anything from Franken, but that she would take his apology if he offered her one.
“I’ve moved on,” she said. “He can apologize if he wants to but I don’t need anything from Al Franken.”
Franken later issued a statement, first saying, “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way,” and dismissing the photo as a bad joke.
Later, he issued another statement, saying, “I’m sorry. I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.”
He again downplayed the kiss, saying, “While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.”
He then called for an ethics investigation on himself.
— Leeann Tweeden (@LeeannTweeden) November 16, 2017