Sen. Al Franken issued a new statement this week in the wake of several sexual misconduct allegations against the former Saturday Night Live star. Though Franken’s statement did not explicitly confess to groping or other inappropriate behavior, he acknowledged that some women felt disrespected by him, and apologized for that.
“I’ve met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations,” Franken said in the statement, per the Associated Press. “I’m a warm person; I hug people. I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many. Some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate, and I respect their feelings about that … I’ve thought a lot in recent days about how that could happen, and recognize that I need to be much more careful and sensitive in these situations. I feel terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again. And let me say again to Minnesotans that I’m sorry for putting them through this and I’m committed to regaining their trust.”
Ever since several women came forward in October to accuse longtime Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, there has been a seismic shift underway in American culture regarding sexual violence. More and more powerful men in media and politics have been accused of misconduct, and several have been fired from their high-profile jobs. Franken was first accused by L.A. radio host Leeann Tweeden, who posted a photo of him appearing to grab her breasts while on a USO tour in 2006. Earlier this week, Lindsay Mentz also came forward and said Franken groped her during a photo op at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. Two other anonymous women have also come forward with similar stories, accusing Franken of groping them at events for his first Senate campaign in 2007 and 2008.
Top Senate Democrats (including Franken’s Minnesota colleague, Sen. Amy Klobuchar) have sharply criticized Franken’s behavior and say they stand with his accusers. Yet Franken’s latest statement offers no indication he plans on resigning. He is certainly not the only politician facing sexual misconduct allegations: Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, has been accused by numerous people of behaving inappropriately with teenage women, and several women accused President Donald Trump of sexual harassment in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Earlier this month, the Senate passed legislation instituting mandatory sexual harassment training for senators and aides on Capitol Hill.