MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – In an article published online Monday, former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken says he "absolutely" regrets resigning without an ethics investigation in the wake of multiple sexual misconduct allegations in 2017, at the height of the #MeToo movement.
New Yorker writer Jane Mayer spoke to the former statesman and "Saturday Night Live" comedian in a long piece examining the accusations against him and the events that led to his abrupt exit from Congress.
The article also names seven current and former senators who now regret calling for him to step down. Among them was former North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who reportedly said: "If there's one decision I've made that I would take back, it's the decision to call for this resignation."
Of the eight female accusers, only four were ever named.
By far the most prominent was conservative radio talk show host Leeann Tweeden. A photo of the two, in which Franken appeared to grope her while she slept during a 2006 USO tour, is widely seen as the biggest single factor in his downfall. The article points out the photograph was one of many distributed to other USO performers in 2006 who saw it as a reenactment of a skit Franken and Tweeden had repeatedly performed.
"He mashed his lips against my face and he stuck his tongue in my mouth so fast," Tweeden said during a news conference in November 2017. The New Yorker also raises questions about Tweeden's account of Franken forcibly kissing her during a USO skit rehearsal
The article questions the failure of minority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer to allow Franken to take his case to the Senate Ethics Committee as he had asked and the rush to judgment by other senators, including two who are now presidential candidates: Kirstin Gillibrand and Kamala Harris.
"I think it's in the best interest of a lot of people that he resigns," Harris said in December 2017.
Gillibrand called for him to step down in order to send a clear message that "any kind of mistreatment of women" is unacceptable.
The article points out Democrats were under intense pressure due to allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and senators were less worried about forcing Franken out because Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton would appoint his successor.
The article is prompting widespread discussion on social media. It has been one of the top trending topics on Twitter nationwide and here in the Twin Cities.
WCCO-TV reached out to somebody who works with Franken but did not hear back. Franken lives in Washington and has been hosting a weekly podcast.
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