Leeann Tweeden, a morning news anchor on TalkRadio 790 KABC in Los Angeles and well-known model, is accusing Senator Al Franken of groping and kissing her without her consent while they were performing in a 2006 military tour overseas.
“I’ve decided it’s time to tell my story. #MeToo,” she wrote, using the hashtag that took off in the wake of the accusations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, as people throughout the United States have shared stories of sexual abuse and harassment. Tweeden alleges that the incident with the Minnesota senator occurred as she “embarked on my ninth USO Tour to entertain our troops, my eighth to the Middle East since the 9/11 attacks.” She included a photo with the essay that appears to show Franken grabbing her breasts while she is sleeping in military gear. You can see it later in this article.
Franken released a statement after Tweeden published her account, 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.” According to The Washington Post, Franken, a Democrat, was an “Air America radio host at the time of the alleged incident” and “was elected to the Senate two years later, in 2008.” He then released a much lengthier statement:
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Tweeden Accuses Franken of Grabbing Her Breasts Without Consent While She Was Sleeping & Provided a Photo of the Moment
In a detailed essay posted to the KABC website, Tweeden described how she went overseas to perform for the troops with Franken. “My father served in Vietnam and my then-boyfriend (and now husband, Chris) is a pilot in the Air Force, so bringing a ‘little piece of home’ to service members stationed far away from their families was both my passion and my privilege,” she wrote. Franken was part of a skit being performed for the troops, and she alleges that Franken wrote a kiss with her into the skit and then insisted she practice it backstage. She wrote that she “said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. 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 also shared the story on the radio.)
In the video above, Tweeden called it a “disgusting photo….he knew that I wouldn’t see that photo until I got home. It’s just that mentality that he thought he could get away with it and that it’s funny…that you can grab someone’s breasts when they are sleeping.” She also held a press conference in which she said she accepted Franken’s apology and wasn’t calling on him to resign.
Tweeden says she tried to avoid Franken after that, which she believes made him angry. “The tour wrapped and on Christmas Eve we began the 36-hour trip home to L.A. After 2 weeks of grueling travel and performing I was exhausted. When our C-17 cargo plane took off from Afghanistan I immediately fell asleep, even though I was still wearing my flak vest and Kevlar helmet,” she wrote. “It wasn’t until I was back in the US and looking through the CD of photos we were given by the photographer that I saw this one…” By “this one,” she was referring to the photo above, which she included with the article. Some are questioning why the photographer stood there and took it, versus stopping the situation.
“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, adding that she was too afraid to come forward before because she was worried doing so would affect her career. She wrote to Franken: “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.” The Senate Majority Leader has called for the Ethics Committee to review the allegations against Franken.
Photos from the event are online. You can see them here. The photo above appears to show Franken holding a pair of underwear. The caption with one of the photos, from the U.S. Army, reads, “Al Franken and Leann Tweeden entertain the Soldiers with a skit at Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul, Iraq Dec 16. They were hosts of the United Service Organization’s Christmas tour of bases in the Central Command area, partnering with Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston.”
Mike Sacks, a national correspondent for EW Scripps, noted that “Franken writes in his most recent book that he decided to run for Senate on the 2006 USO tour where Tweeden has accused him of forced kissing and groping.” You can read the pertinent passage from Franken’s book above.
A photographer who was there when the skit was performed blogged about it at the time. He wrote: “At this point, of course, I’m feeling a little better. Last night’s show was really great — everyone stepped it up a notch, although part of me still isn’t convinced the soldiers in the audience were really reachable. But it was a great show, which made all of us feel a bit better. One funny thing happened, or rather almost happened. Al does this Saddam bit wherein he dresses as ‘trial’ Saddam (white shirt, black suit, beard) and is led up there in cuffs by two MPs. Then he hits on Leeann Tweeden and gets dragged out yelling ‘F*CK YOU!’ It’s real high-brow stuff. Anyway, he gets up there last night and does his initial rounds of ‘f*ck you’s’ to the troops, when I hear a shaky voice next to me yell, ‘No — f*ck YOU!” I turn, and there’s this guy with long greasy hair, looks kind of like Bruno, the guy who used to work at Carlo’s salon. (I think my dad might be the only person reading this who knows Bruno). Then he yells, ‘F*ck you — you imprisoned me for three years!’ It was an Iraqi who had recently become an American citizen, and who had obviously had a bad time of it under Saddam.”
A second woman, Melanie Morgan is now accusing Franken of “stalking and harassing” her. He has not yet responded to those accusations.
2. Tweeden Is Known For Her Modeling, Has Appeared on Fox News & Was Once a ‘Hooters Girl’
On Twitter, Tweeden defines herself as “Wife, Mom, Sportscaster, Model, TV Host, News Anchor on “McIntyre in the Morning”, 790 KABC. 5-10am PST M-F.” She has posted many photos of herself professionally with movie stars, music stars, and other political figures. She has many Hollywood credits to her name. For example, according to IMDB, she has appeared on the “half-hour Fox Sports Net/Speed Channel motor-cross show High Octane (2002) and also hosted Fox Sports Net’s Bluetorch TV (2000), an extreme sports show. In addition, Leeann was a correspondent for an installment of E!’s Wild On… (1997) series.” She also appeared on “The Best Damn Sports Show Period (2001) also on Fox Sports Net, and her pictorials can be found all over the Internet,” IMDB reports.
In addition to her broadcasting work, Tweeden has had a successful career modeling. “She has appeared on the covers of FHM and Maxim, she has modeled for Sports Illustrated, and was the star of the Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog and the Venus Swimwear line. Her magazine covers are some of the highest selling of all time,” reports Military Spouse. According to CraveOnline, “Her television debut was with Tony Little, the Venus Model Search fitness trainer. She also landed on the ESPN workout show Fitness Beach, which was the number one-rated fitness show of its time.”
A short profile in Playboy Magazine described how Tweeden once worked for Hooters. “She was waiting tables at a Hooters restaurant when she was given a ‘promotion’ – she did promotional modeling for Hooters, and was named one of the top Hooters girls of all time. From there, she modeled for Frederick’s of Hollywood, and was hired as a correspondent on Fox Sports’ Best Damn Sports Show Period. These days, she’s hedging bets on NBC’s Poker After Dark, and she designs a delicate line of lingerie,” reported the magazine.
In 2013, Tweeden appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show and was asked about the sexting accusations against Anthony Weiner. “On Hannity last night, Sean asked radio host Eboni Williams and TV personality Leeann Tweeden about why (Weiner’s then-wife Huma) Abedin is still standing by her husband. Tweeden said she can understand why Abedin has remained loyal, but believes Weiner should not continue his candidacy any longer,” Fox News reported at the time.
In another Hannity appearance, Tweeden once called Joy Behar a “bitter old lady” after Behar referred to Sharron Angle as a “b*tch.” According to Mediaite, Tweeden “began by saying Behar ‘annoys’ her, though Tweeden doesn’t watch The View. Then things took a turn for the weird: ‘I know she’s married [ed. note: Behar is in a long-term relationship, but is not married], but does she ever have sex with her husband?…Maybe she’s not very happy in the bedroom, because she just seems like a bitter old lady.’”
3. Tweeden Has Toured War Zones at Least 16 Times & Her Husband Has Also Served in the Military
Leeann Tweeden’s concern for service members is well known in military circles and she’s toured with the military overseas at least 16 times. “Leeann has used her celebrity status to help promote various causes including the USO, The Wounded Warriors Project, breast cancer research, The Special Olympics, and charities to help the children of fallen soldiers. She has done 16 USO Tours around the world, and has gone overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan to visit the troops on 14 different occasions,” IMDB reports. She posted this flipagram on Instagram of her tours.
On Facebook and Instagram, she frequently posts support for the military, shares photos of her modeling shoots, and posts pictures at shooting ranges. She doesn’t appear to post much about politics on Facebook and Instagram, other than support for service members. Her Instagram page is filled mostly with family and glamour shots. In 2013, she posted photos of “I Voted” stickers but did not say for whom.
She has tweeted about being at the Trump golf course and once retweeted an article about Trump not running for president in 2012. She also wrote on Twitter in 2011, “How cool is this?! The check @johnrich got for St. Jude’s from Mr. Trump!!” The tweet didn’t elaborate.
According to Military Spouse, Leeann Tweeden’s husband has also served in the U.S. military. The site describes how the couple met. “On her first tour in 2002, Leeann befriended the pilot of their C-130 Captain Tyler Thompson. He had forgotten his camera, but Leeann promised that if he gave her his email address, she would send him the pictures. True to her word, Leeann returned home and emailed the images,” the site reports.
“The two struck up a friendship. Through the years, Leeann stayed in contact with Tyler during her travels. On a trip back to Virginia in October 2004, Leeann invited Tyler to join her and her friends. Tyler asked to bring a friend from his unit; they were getting ready to deploy and had decided to take the weekend off. ‘Yes,’ she remembers saying. ‘I told him, ‘Yes, bring him; any friend of yours is a friend of ours.’” That friend ended up being her future husband, Chris Dougherty.
The article, written three years before the allegations, noted, “Chris has transitioned from Active Duty into the Air National Guard. At the time of writing, Chris had just returned from another overseas deployment.” The story reports that many military members described meeting Leeann personally and being charmed by her down-to-earth personality and concern for those serving in the U.S. military. Leeann is also involved in autism causes. “Leeann Tweeden is also involved with Rethinking Autism,” reports CraveOnline.
On July 4, 2016, she wrote on Facebook, “Today, we celebrate America’s Independence. And we also celebrate our wedding anniversary! I married the love of my life 6 years ago. We’ve been together 12, lived through active-duty, constant deployments and living on opposite coasts. But we made it! We started our little family and now we have 2 happy & healthy children! We’re still a military family and are proud to continue serving. As we all celebrate today, please remember our service men & women who wear the uniform and protect the liberty we all hold so dear. ❤️??✨ ”
4. Leeann Tweeden Was Born in Virginia & Got Her Break as a Spokesmodel on ‘Star Search’
It didn’t take long for Tweeden’s beauty and talents to be recognized. “Born in Manassas, Virginia, the splendid Miss Tweeden won a talent contest when she was just sixteen, and after graduating from high school – two years earlier than her peers – she moved to Hollywood to pursue a career as a model,” reported the short profile in Playboy Magazine.
According to IMDB, she has described herself as a tomboy in the past. “Born to parents of Spanish, Filipino, and Norwegian ancestry, Miss Tweeden grew up in Virginia as a self-proclaimed ‘tomboy,”” the site reports.
Ed McMahon gave Tweeden her big break. “After graduating from Osbourn Park Senior High in 1991, she pursued a career in modeling,” IMDB reports. “Her dad and brother raced cars and go-karts while she was growing up, and her uncle was a track announcer. You could say she was born into a racing family. Leeann graduated from high school in 3 years at the age, of 16, and instead of going straight to college, Leeann wanted to follow her dreams of moving to Hollywood. She did so at the age of 18 and, once there, she was soon cast as a spokesmodel on Ed McMahon’s famous talent show, Star Search (1983), launching her television career.”
5. Leeann’s Father Was an Air Force Mechanic & She Is a Mother
Tweeden’s father was a military man. “Leeann belongs to a military family as her father himself is a retired Air Force Chief Mechanic who worked in B-57s,” reports FrostSnow. The site reports that Leeann and her husband, Chris, have two children. Kane was born in 2013, and Kaia was born in 2015.
Tweeden often posts photos of her family on social media. As for Franken, he had recently posted on Facebook to champion the courage of women coming forward to share their stories as sexual assault accusations exploded both in Hollywood and the political world. “It takes a lot of courage to come forward, and we owe them our thanks,” he wrote, referencing Harvey Weinstein. “And as we hear more and more about Mr. Weinstein, it’s important to remember that while his behavior was appalling, it’s far too common.” In 1995, Franken was accused of proposing a comedy skit about raping anchorwoman Lesley Stahl.