By Alan Bjerga, The Washington Post
Minnesota Democrat Al Franken, his future in the U.S. Senate in doubt after allegations he groped women, told a home-state newspaper he’s “looking forward to getting back to work” and doesn’t remember incidents in which he’s accused of misconduct.
“I’m embarrassed and ashamed,” Franken told the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune newspaper in an interview published on Sunday. “I’ve let a lot of people down, and I’m hoping I can make it up to them and gradually regain their trust.”
Still, referring to photos in which women said the senator was groping them, “I don’t remember these photographs, I don’t,” he said. “This is not something I would intentionally do.”
The accusations engulfing the second-term lawmaker occur amid numerous allegations against prominent politicians and other public figures in recent weeks.
In Alabama, multiple women have accused Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of pursuing them decades ago, when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. On Sunday, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said he would step down as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee during an ethics probe into allegations of past misconduct. Franken has agreed to a similar investigation. Franken, 66, hadn’t spoken about his alleged sexual harassment for more than a week, as four different women have accused him of groping, embarrassing, and, in one case, forcibly kissing them without consent.
The senator has so far rebuffed calls from some liberal activists and Democrats in his home state to resign from the Senate. Among his colleagues in the chamber, Republicans as well as Democrats have mostly stopped short of demanding Franken’s ouster.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said the matter should be reviewed by the ethics committee, as did Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
After Los Angeles radio broadcaster Leeann Tweeden on Nov. 16 accused the former “Saturday Night Live” writer and performer of forcibly kissing her and taking an embarrassing photograph with her during a 2006 USO tour, Franken skipped the day’s Senate votes. He’s also kept a kept a low profile during the Senate’s week-long Thanksgiving recess. Since then, three other women have accused Franken of groping them, in two cases while posing for photos.
The senator’s supporters have also spoken out, with 65 women active in Minnesota politics and 36 women who worked with him on “Saturday Night Live” supporting him in separate letters.