On Thursday, radio host Leeann Tweeden accused Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) of sexual assault. She claimed that he forcibly kissed her and later groped her breasts. Franken later apologized, and Tweeden said she accepted his apology. She further insisted that she is not calling for him to step down from the U.S. Senate.
“The apology, sure, I accept it,” Tweeden said on Fox News Thursday afternoon. “People make mistakes — of course he knew he made a mistake. I do accept that apology.”
In a statement, Franken formally apologized. “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,” Franken said. He added, “I feel disgusted with myself.”
Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called on the Senate Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into the allegations.
“The ethics investigation, if that’s what Mitch McConnell wants to do, that’s on them,” Tweeden said. “I’m not calling for that.”
She also insisted that she wasn’t calling Franken to step down. “People make mistakes, I’m not calling for him to step down,” the accuser said. “That’s not my place to say that. If there are other people that come out and say he’s done this, I don’t know.”
Another woman, Melanie Morgan, made more accusations later. Morgan did not insist that Franken step down, but she did say she would happily testify to the Ethics Committee if an investigation is launched.
As for why she accepts the apology and is not calling on Franken to step down, Tweeden insisted that she cares about the issue of women being abused by men in power more than she cares about getting any sort of revenge.
“I wasn’t looking for anything. People were asking what I expected from him,” the accuser said. “To me it is more, this is happening in Hollywood. … With Al now in the Senate, this is kind of Hollywood and kind of politics, but it’s sort of parallel.”
“This is happening in middle America, this is happening for women that work at Chili’s, that is happening for women that work in an office building in Iowa and Kansas and Florida,” Tweeden explained. “This is happening to women who have no power and no essay to speak up.”
“I think the tide is turning, but what about all the women who don’t have microphones and have a voice and can say something and it’s everywhere on the news?” she asked.
To her, the issue isn’t about one man, but about the pervasive abuse of women by men in authority. She may not want Al Franken to step down or be investigated, but it sounds like she wants all men to stop using positions of authority to sexually abuse women. In that, Leeann Tweeden is far from alone.