Al Franken, the former “Saturday Night Live” personality turned U.S. senator from Minnesota, is calling for an ethics investigation into his own behavior after being accused of kissing and groping a woman without her consent during a USO tour in 2006, The Hill reports.
Television host and sports broadcaster Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of improprieties including groping her breasts while she was asleep on a military plane. A photo of the groping incident, which you can see below, has been making the rounds on Twitter and other social media outlets.
In a statement released today, Franken said: “I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences. I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.”
“In a piece on KABC, Tweeden published a photo of Franken groping her breasts while they were both on a USO tour. She also wrote that Franken forcibly kissed her while they were rehearsing a sketch for a performance,” The Hill reports, adding: “Franken initially issued a brief, three-sentence statement, in which he said he didn’t remember the rehearsal for the skit ‘in the same way.'”
Franken received backlash following his initial statement, in which he said he had sent “my sincerest apologies to Leeann” and admitted that he should not have taken the photo, saying it was “clearly intended to be funny.”
He followed up with a more definitive apology today after receiving negative feedback on his first attempt from across the political spectrum, The Hill notes.
“The first and most important thing — and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine — is: I’m sorry,” Franken wrote in today’s statement. “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 also wrote: “The truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”