Leeann Tweeden, a prominent model and morning news anchor on TalkRadio 790 KABC in Los Angeles, is accusing Minnesota Senator Al Franken of groping and kissing her without her consent in an online essay. She also shared a photo to back up her story that appears to show Franken groping her, something he did not deny in a statement issued in response to her claims. You can see the photo below.
“I’ve decided it’s time to tell my story. #MeToo,” Tweeden wrote, using the hashtag that gained fame in the wake of the accusations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, as people throughout the United States shared personal 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.
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.”
Here is the photo as it appears on Tweeden’s Twitter page:
Here’s a fuller view of the picture:
In addition, photos from the event are online. You can see them here. 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.” Here is one photo from that gallery. It shows Franken standing with Tweeden and holding up a pair of underwear:
In the 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.”
Tweeden wrote that 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.
“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.”
Franken has released a lengthy statement:
On Twitter, Tweeden has called 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 developed a lengthy career in television broadcasting and modeling in particular. 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.
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.
You can read more about Tweeden here: