In a New Yorker profile published Monday, Al Franken said he “absolutely” regrets resigning from the U.S. Senate last year after his fellow Democrats pressured him to do so in response to several sexual misconduct allegations.
The former Minnesota lawmaker told The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer that he now wishes he had appeared before a Senate Ethics Committee hearing about the accusations, as he had requested, instead of resigning.
The 68-year-old former “Saturday Night Live” cast member told Mayer that he regrets having made some women uncomfortable, but pushed back on how his actions were characterized by his eight accusers.
“The idea that anybody who accuses someone of something is always right ― that’s not the case,” Franken said. “That isn’t reality.”
Franken, who assumed office in 2009, announced his intention to resign on Dec. 7, 2017, a day after Politico and The Atlantic published allegations from two separate women accusing him of sexual misconduct. He was already facing accusations from six other women at the time.
Mayer investigated the claims, which include forcible kissing and groping, and laid out the findings in her nearly 13,000-word article.
″Almost NOTHING His Main Accuser Said checks out,” Mayer tweeted Monday, referring to Leeann Tweeden, a conservative talk-radio host who in November 2017 became the first woman to publicly accuse Franken of sexual misconduct.
“Sometimes the first draft of history is wrong ― especially when no one fact checks it,” Mayer wrote on Twitter.
Tweeden accused Franken of a pattern of sexual harassment while they were on a U.S.O. tour together in December 2006. She’s said the then-comedian, who was gearing up for his first run Senate run at the time, wrote a skit that included a kissing scene so he would have the opportunity to kiss her.
She said Franken forcibly kissed her while rehearsing the skit, and took a photo while she was sleeping at the end of the tour in which his hands are outstretched toward her breasts.
“You knew exactly what you were doing,” Tweeden said in her statement in 2017. “You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping, and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later, and be ashamed.”
Franken told Mayer that Tweeden’s version of events is “just not true.” He said he wrote the kissing skit years earlier and had performed it with other groups previously ― a claim Mayer independently corroborated.
Franken said he “genuinely” feels bad that he posed for the picture in such a way without Tweeden’s consent, but maintained that he was simply “goofing around.”
Days after Tweeden’s accusation went public, CNN reported that another woman, Lindsay Menz, said Franken grabbed her butt without consent while the two posed together for a picture at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.
Two days later, HuffPost reported accusations from two more women who separately accused the senator of inappropriate touching. Both women, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Franken grabbed their butts without consent while taking pictures with him. Neither accuser knew of the other’s story, which both women had been telling privately for years.
A fifth accuser, an Army veteran named Stephanie Kemplin, told CNN that Franken cupped her breast during a photo op in December 2003 while he was on a U.S.O. tour and she was deployed in Kuwait.
The same day Kemplin’s story was reported by CNN, Jezebel published an accusation from a woman described as a “former elected official in New England” who said Franken tried to give her a “wet, open-mouthed kiss” at an event in 2006.
Days later, journalist Tina Dupuy wrote in The Atlantic that Franken inappropriately squeezed her waist while she posed with him at an event in 2009. That same day, Politico published an unnamed former Democratic congressional aide’s accusation that Franken had attempted to forcibly kiss her.
Franken told Mayer that he had no recollection of any of the accusers except for Tweeden. Mayer did not mention Kemplin’s accusation in her piece.
Read Meyer’s full profile of Franken at The New Yorker.