Radio announcer Leeann Tweeden with United States Senator Al Franken.
Radio announcer Leeann Tweeden with United States Senator Al Franken.

RADIO HOST’S SICK ORDEAL: ‘Groped me while I was asleep’

A FEMALE radio host has become the latest person to accuse a prominent man in power of sexual harassment.

Back in 2006, Leeann Tweeden, who has also modelled for the likes of Maxim and Playboy, was travelling through the Middle East with former Saturday Night Live comedian Al Franken for a United Service Organisations (U.S.O) tour.

The tours are a way of providing live entertainment for troops fighting overseas, as a "little piece of home".

Tweeden was travelling as the MC, the person who would introduce Franken, the comedian headlining the shows.

Franken, who was well-known for being a successful writer and performer for Saturday Night Live from the 1970s to 1990s, assured Tweeden he'd written her a funny part in a skit, something she "agreed to play along" with.

"When I saw the script, Franken had written a moment when his character comes at me for a 'kiss'. I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute, or put my hand over his mouth, to get more laughs from the crowd," she wrote.

Before the first day of the skit, Franken encouraged Tweeden to rehearse the skit, specifically, the kiss.

"'We need to rehearse the kiss.' I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, 'Relax Al, this isn't SNL … we don't need to rehearse the kiss,'" she wrote.

After repeated insistence, Tweeden said she gave in so he would "stop badgering" her.

"We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth," she wrote.

Tweeden pushed him away and warned him not to do it again, writing "I felt disgusted and violated".

The radio host claimed she didn't tell anyone because she didn't want to cause trouble.

"I was a professional, and I could take care of myself," she wrote.

Tweeden said she never had a voluntary conversation with the comedian on the tour again and it wasn't until she arrived back to Los Angeles that she checked the pictures taken by the photographer.

It was then that she discovered this photo.

Al Franken appearing to grope Leeann Tweeden while she’s sleeping.
Al Franken appearing to grope Leeann Tweeden while she’s sleeping.

"I couldn't believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep.

"I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it's funny?" she wrote.

The backlash against Franken, who was elected to the Senate in 2009 after entering politics in 2007, was swift and severe.

The Democrat was also quick to apologise, offering a short response late last night when the news first broke.

"I certainly don't remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann," he said. "As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't. I shouldn't have done it."

A photo from a 2006 U.S.O show where Al Franken and Leeann Tweeden performed the skit. Picture: Creighton Holub
A photo from a 2006 U.S.O show where Al Franken and Leeann Tweeden performed the skit. Picture: Creighton Holub

The backlash over Franken's initial apology led the politician to release a second, lengthier statement this morning.

"The first thing I want to do is apologise: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women," Franken wrote.

"I respect women. I don't respect men who don't," he continued. "And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed."


Franken referred himself to the Ethics Committee and said his time in comedy had skewed what he'd seen as inappropriate.

"Coming from the world of comedy, I've told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realise were just plain offensive," he wrote. "But the intentions behind my actions aren't the point at all. It's the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I'm sorry it's taken me so long to come to terms with that."

Tweeden, who now works as the news anchor for McIntyre in the Morning on Los Angeles radio station KABC, said she was "no longer afraid" to come forward after countless women in Hollywood and politics started speaking out.

"You knew exactly what you were doing. You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later, and be ashamed, "she wrote.

"I want the days of silence to be over forever," she added.

Tweeden later told reporters she accepted his apology.

"The apology? Sure. I accept it," she said. "People make mistakes."

The radio host also said it wasn't "her place" to call on the senator to step down.

Tweeden's speech comes in the wake of people like US congresswoman Jackie Speier speaking out against the sexual harassment that has become commonplace in Washington DC among politicians and their staff.

It also comes in the same week a storm begins to envelope Alabama's Republican candidate Roy Moore.

Six women have now alleged sexual misconduct against him, among them a woman who was 14 at the time. Another, who was 16, said she was groped by the senator and had her head forced into his crotch.

Mr Moore has firmly denied all the allegations, claiming they are part of a political witch hunt.