Leeann Tweeden, the woman who spoke out Thursday to accuse Al Franken of kissing and groping her in 2006 without her consent, said Friday morning that she is not asking for the Minnesota Senator to be removed from office.
Tweeden, a TV host and sports broadcaster, sat down with ABC’s Good Morning America on Friday where she revealed to co-anchor Robin Roberts that she only came forward with her story so that other victims would be empowered to share their own experiences with sexual misconduct.
“I didn’t do this to have him step down. I think Al Franken does a lot of good things in the Senate,” Tweeden said when asked if he should resign. “You know, I think that’s for the people of Minnesota to decide. I’m not calling for him to step down. That was never my intention.
“I just wanted him to understand what he did was wrong and how he treated me and how abusers do that under the guise that it’s funny, or that ‘Oh, I can get away with it because I’m a comedian,’ Tweeden continued. “That’s never funny. When you shine a light on it, that’s the culture of it — that’s the chance we need to make.”
Though it’s been over 10 years since the alleged incident, Tweeden said she never let go of the negative feelings about it. “I stayed quiet, but I was angry,” Tweeden said on GMA, adding that she hadn’t spoken out about the alleged incident before because it was “a different time,” and that her now-husband had warned her she would face career consequences and would be “victimized.”
It wasn’t until California Rep. Jackie Speier shared her own account of sexual assault as a young congressional aide that Tweeden felt inspired to come forward.
“That happened to me … that was my sign, Tweeden said. “I think if I don’t speak up now, I’m going to forever hold that and keep it with me forever. That was my moment to speak up.”
She did so — telling her story in a blog post Thursday in which she claimed the Minnesota Democrat touched her breasts as she was sleeping while the two were on a USO Tour to entertain troops in December 2006.
“I’ve decided it’s time to tell my story. #MeToo,” Tweeden tweeted alongside the photo.
Franken, 66, quickly apologized for the incident in a statement obtained by PEOPLE, saying: “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”
The former Saturday Night Live star later issued a longer statement, also obtained by PEOPLE, in which he apologized again and said “there’s no excuse” for his actions in the photo. “I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter,” he said. “There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture.”
He also referenced the recent wave of sexual misconduct allegations that have been leveled against men of power in various industries, and said that it has forced men to think about the impact their actions have on women.
“Over the past few months, all of us — including and especially men who respect women — have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women,” Franken said.
President Donald Trump, who has also been accused of sexually harassing numerous women over the years, also tweeted about the controversy Thursday night, writing “The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps? ….”
“.And to think that just last week he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women. Lesley Stahl tape?”
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Tweeden, who also gave a press conference on Thursday in which she said she accepted Franken’s apology and was not calling for him to step down, reiterated to GMA that she has forgiven him.
“The first apology sounded like a staffer. That was very quick yesterday morning when I first talked about it,” Tweeden said. ‘And I was like, ‘Yeah, okay, a two sentence apology. I accepted that as well [knowing] politicians need to really get ahead of the game. ‘I apologize, that was inappropriate that wasn’t me,’ … ‘Alright.’ ”
“The second apology, I think once things started happening in the media, the second one was definitely heartfelt,” she added. “I do accept it. I think he realized how people felt about it and now it’s a different time. 2006 is not 2017.”
She also said that she had seen Franken over the years with her husband. “I was very cold to him then and he had a chance to apologize and never did,” she said.