US President Donald Trump inveighed against Democratic Senator Al Franken over allegations of inappropriate behavior, saying the photo of Franken with his accuser “speaks a thousand words,” and predicting the lawmaker was guilty of more misdeeds.
Despite coming under fire for remaining silent on mounting allegations of sexual abuse against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and being accused himself of sexual misconduct, Trump took Franken to task after a woman said the senator had groped and kissed her against her will.
“The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?” Trump wrote on Twitter, misspelling the name of Frankenstein.
“And to think that just last week he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women. Lesley Stahl tape?” he added, referencing a joke the comedian made in a 1995 New York Magazine article about an idea for a Saturday Night Live skit in which Andy Moore raped the “60 Minutes” host.
Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden came forward Thursday to accuse Franken of forcibly kissing and groping her during a 2006 USO tour.
Franken issued an apology and welcomed a Senate Ethics investigation.
Tweeden released a photo that shows Franken posing in a joking manner with his hands on her chest as she naps wearing a flak vest aboard a military plane.
She did not reference the existence of other pictures.
The tweets from Trump came in sharp contrast to his statements on Moore and his own dismissal of claims against himself.
Moore, a former judge, has been accused of sexual harassment and assault against a series of women, some of whom were underage at the times of the alleged incidents.
The president on Thursday broke his silence on Moore, calling the allegations of sexual misconduct against the former judge “very troubling,” through a spokesperson.
Trump stopped short of calling on Moore to quit the race, however, breaking with most Republican leaders in Washington, including Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader.
The president himself has been dogged by claims of sexual abuse for years, including a tape that surfaced during the presidential campaign last year during which he bragged about kissing women against their will and grabbing them by their genitalia.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” he was heard saying on the Access Hollywood recording.
Trump has in the past been accused of raping a 13-year-old girl at a party and a business associate alleged he attempted to rape her. Both suits were eventually dropped.
During the presidential campaign, 16 more women came forward to allege sexual misconduct by Trump. The claims of all them have been dismissed by the White House as “fake news.”
Franken, 66, is the latest public figure to be caught in the deluge of revelations of sexual harassment and misconduct that have crushed careers, ruined reputations and prompted criminal investigations in Hollywood, business and beyond. The swift rebukes from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers suggest that momentum from the online #Metoo movement has begun to spur a culture shift on Capitol Hill, where current and former staffers say misogynistic and predatory behavior has long been an open secret.
Tweeden posted her allegations, including a photo of Franken and her, on the website of KABC, where she works as a news anchor for a morning radio show. The photo shows Franken posing in a joking manner, smiling at the camera with his hands on her chest as she naps wearing a flak vest aboard a military plane. Both had been performing for military personnel in Afghanistan two years before the one-time “Saturday Night Live” comedian was elected to the Senate.
Tweeden said Thursday that before an earlier show Franken had persisted in rehearsing a kiss and “aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.” Now, she said, “every time I hear his voice or see his face, I am angry.” She’s angry with herself, too, she said, for not speaking out at the time “but I didn’t want to rock the boat.”
In a statement Thursday, Franken apologized to Tweeden and his constituents while maintaining that he remembered the rehearsal differently. Tweeden said she accepted his apology.
“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 realize were just plain offensive,” Franken wrote.
“I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t,” Franken added. “And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.”
Of the photo, Franken said: “I look at it now, and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture.”
The accusations against Franken come just days after the Senate unanimously adopted mandatory sexual harassment training for members and staffs amid a flood of stories about harassment, sexual misconduct and gender hostility from staffers, aides and even female elected officials.
On Tuesday, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., testified in the House that two current lawmakers, one Republican and one Democrat, were known to have engaged in sexual harassment.
Speier did not name the lawmakers — at the request of the victims, she said, and because of a non-disclosure agreement. Speier has become a voice for sexual harassment awareness after coming forward with her own story of being assaulted by a chief of staff when she was a congressional aide.
Tweeden on Thursday said Speier inspired her to share her story.
“If I’m going to tell my story, now is the time. 2017 is not 2006. It’s just a different time,” she said at a news conference Thursday in Los Angeles.
Senate Democrats spoke with one voice in describing Franken’s actions as unacceptable and calling for an ethics probe.
Franken’s fellow Minnesota Democrat, Amy Klobuchar, said, “This should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden. I strongly condemn this behavior, and the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who is facing a tough re-election next year, said she was “shocked and concerned.” She said, “Comedy is no excuse for inappropriate conduct, and I believe there should be an ethics investigation.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the top Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, called for an ethics inquiry.
Franken, who has been married for more than 40 years, drew criticism during his first Senate campaign for joking about rape while discussing the sketch idea during his days at “Saturday Night Live.” Franken said then that he regretted some of the things he had written, and said he respected women “in both my personal and professional life.”