Al Franken issued a Thanksgiving statement and apology in the wake of four women alleging that he touched them inappropriately, ending his message with a promise to regain constituents’ trust and suggesting he was not considering resigning from the Senate.
“Some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate,” he said, “and I respect their feelings about that.”
Franken, who was elected in Minnesota in 2008, faces a Senate ethics investigation for improper conduct. His statement on Thursday did not admit to groping or other inappropriate touching but acknowledged that some women felt he had done something offensive during their encounters. Still, the Democratic senator apologized.
“I’ve met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations,” he wrote. “I’m a warm person; I hug people. I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women – and I know that any number is too many.
He continued: “I’ve thought a lot in recent days about how that could happen, and recognize that I need to be much more careful and sensitive in these situations. I feel terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again.
“And let me say again to Minnesotans that I’m sorry for putting them through this and I’m committed to regaining their trust.”
The accusations against Franken come as the issue of sexual harassment has brought about firings and admonishments against powerful men in politics, entertainment, media and other institutions.
Los Angeles radio anchor Leeann Tweeden said last week Franken put his tongue in her mouth during a 2006 USO tour, when the former Saturday Night Live writer and performer was still working as a comedian. She posted a photo of Franken with his hands above her chest as she slept wearing a flak vest aboard a military plane. Soon after the post, he apologized to her.
Another woman, Lindsay Menz, said on Monday that Franken squeezed her buttocks in 2010 while posing for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair. Franken said he didn’t remember the picture but expressed remorse that Menz felt “disrespected”.
Two more women alleged in a Huffington Post story published on Wednesday that Franken touched their buttocks during campaign events in 2007 and 2008.
Franken has not appeared in public since the first allegation, canceling an event in Atlanta for his book Al Franken, Master of the Senate and, according to aides, “spending time with his family and doing a lot of reflecting”.