By the time Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) announced his resignation Thursday morning on the Senate floor, eight women had either written essays or given media interviews accusing him of kissing them, groping them or both without their consent over the past decade.
The accusations began three weeks ago with an essay written by Leeann Tweeden, a host on KABC radio in Los Angeles. Tweeden said that Franken groped her breasts and kissed her without her consent in 2006 while they were performing together in a USO tour for military members in the Middle East.
Just hours before Franken took the Senate floor to make his announcement, an eighth Franken accuser stepped forward. Tina Dupuy, a former Democratic Hill staffer, wrote an essay that was posted Wednesday on the Atlantic’s website, saying Franken groped her as she posed for a photograph with him at a 2009 inauguration party for President Barack Obama.
Franken had apologized for some of the incidents but also said he either did not remember the incidents or had a different recollection of them than his accusers. Still, by Wednesday afternoon, a majority of Senate Democrats had called on Franken to step down.
In interviews, Franken’s accusers said the lawmaker made the right decision.
“You can’t be a champion of women and then turn around and assault us. It’s not how it works,” said Stephanie Kemplin, an Army veteran who says Franken groped her breast as she posed for a photo with him during a USO tour 14 years ago.
Tweeden said: “It’s a lose-lose situation here. It’s not like I’m jumping up and down rejoicing. You are watching somebody probably having the worst day of his life. I feel bad, and feel bad for his family.”
She added, “I am sad that he took that time to still deny and say that some of this stuff wasn’t true.”
Dupuy said she was offended by Franken’s resignation speech and thought it was inappropriate that he delivered it on the Senate floor.
“His speech was about his experience, his grief, his embarrassment and his pain and had nothing to do with the female experience of what he did against his accusers,” Dupuy said. “It was a very un-empathetic speech to the women who told him and the public that it was not okay. There was no apology.”
Two of the alleged incidents took place after Franken was elected to the Senate, and two occurred while he was campaigning for a Senate seat. Four women described incidents that allegedly took place before Franken’s election to Congress. Half of the women who provided their accounts to various media outlets did so on the condition of anonymity. Of the four who spoke on the record, two are Republicans, one is a Democrat and one is not registered with a political party. One anonymous accuser was identified as a Democratic congressional aide, and another described her politics as “liberal.”
“This was not about politics,” Tweeden said. “This was about right and wrong. This was about a time and place where people were finally having this conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace.”
When Tweeden made her accusations, Franken said he did not remember the kissing incident — in which Tweeden said he stuck his tongue down her throat as they rehearsed a USO skit — in the way that she did. Tweeden also released a photo of Franken standing over her, with his hands apparently hovering just above her breasts as she slept. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t,” Franken said. “I shouldn’t have done it.”
Franken has not responded to Dupuy’s accusations. In response to Kemplin’s claims, Franken’s office said in a statement: “As Senator Franken made clear this week, he takes thousands of photos and has met tens of thousands of people and has never intentionally engaged in this kind of conduct.”
Franken’s accusers also include:
●Lindsay Menz, who told CNN that Franken grabbed her buttocks as she posed for a picture with him in 2010 at the Minnesota State Fair. She said Franken “put his hand full-fledged on my rear.” In a statement to CNN, Franken said that he did not remember taking the picture and that he felt “badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected.”
●Two anonymous women told HuffPost that Franken touched their buttocks as they posed for pictures with them. The separate incidents allegedly took place in 2007 and 2008. One women said that “he grabbed my buttocks” at an event hosted by the Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus. The second woman said Franken cupped her buttocks and then propositioned her, suggesting the two go into a bathroom. The woman said that incident took place at a fundraiser held at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Franken told the HuffPost that “it’s difficult to respond to anonymous accusers, and I don’t remember those campaign events.”
●An unnamed female politician in New England told Jezebel that Franken attempted to give her a “wet, open-mouthed kiss” in 2006 during a taping of Franken’s radio show, “Air America.” Franken has not responded.
●An anonymous Democratic congressional aide told Politico that Franken tried to forcibly kiss her after a 2006 radio show taping. She said that when she tried to leave the room, Franken told her, “It’s my right as an entertainer.” Franken said the accusation is “categorically not true, and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article reported that Dupuy’s Atlantic essay was published Thursday. It was posted Wednesday afternoon.