Minnesota Sen. Al Franken spoke publicly about the sexual harassment allegations against him Sunday, expressing shame and embarrassment, but remaining committed to his work in Congress.
“I know I have a lot of work to do to regain the trust of the people I’ve let down, the people of Minnesota, my friends and colleagues, everyone who counts on me to be a champion for women,” Franken told Minnesota newspaper the Star Tribune Sunday, describing himself as “embarrassed and ashamed.”
He told the Tribune he will return to work on Monday, and that he was looking forward to it.
He also spoke on Minnesota Public Radio, saying that he had no intention of resigning from his role in the Senate. “I’m committed to working as hard as I can here in the Senate for the people of Minnesota. The ethics committee will be looking into all of this and I will work with them in any way I can,” he said.
These were the first media interviews Franken has given since he has found himself ensconced in a wave of sexual harassment allegations from four different women. Leeann Tweeden, a model, sportscaster and radio host wrote in a Nov. 16 blog post that she and Franken were on a USO tour in the Middle East in 2006 when he forced her to kiss him, and then groped her while she was asleep. Franken was not yet a senator at the time.
Four days later, another woman, Lindsay Menz, told CNN in an interview that Franken put his hand on her rear while taking a photograph with her at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.
Franken apologized to both Tweeden and Menz for the photographs, but said he recalled the incident with Tweeden differently, and does not remember taking the photograph with Menz, sentiments he conveyed again on Sunday. Franken has also joined his colleagues in calling for a Senate investigation into his conduct.
On Nov. 22, HuffPost cited accounts from two more women who said Franken touched their butts during campaign events in 2007 and 2008. “It’s difficult to respond to anonymous accusers, and I don’t remember those campaign events,” Franken told HuffPost in a statement.
Franken reiterated in his interview with the Tribune that he did not remember the photographs and would never intentionally act like that. “I just recognize that I need to be more careful and a lot more sensitive in these situations,” he told the Tribune.
Franken said he didn’t know if more women would come forward with allegations against him, adding that this entire experience has been a shock to him, and he has no recollection of women ever telling him he made them uncomfortable.
“I’m someone who hugs people and I’ve learned from these stories that in some of these encounters I’ve crossed the line; I know that any number is too many,” Franken told MPR. “If they feel that this encounter — my embrace or something has been inappropriate, I respect their feelings about that. I think women need to be heard.”