Democratic Sen. Al Franken (Minn.) made a Senate floor speech in 2010 in which he referenced the woman by name who has accused him of sexually assaulting her, calling her “a beautiful woman.”
Leeann Tweeden, now a Los Angeles-based radio news anchor, alleged Thursday that Franken aggressively kissed her without consent while they were rehearsing for a skit during a USO tour in 2006. She also posted a photograph of a smiling Franken grabbing her breasts through her flak vest while she slept on a plane ride home from the Middle East.
Franken said he remembered the rehearsal differently but apologized for his actions, and he said he would cooperate with an ethics investigation into his actions.
CNN found a clip of Franken talking about Tweeden while speaking on the Senate floor on Sept. 21, 2010. The remarks he made about Tweeden were not part of his prepared remarks, according to a transcript of the speech on his website.
Franken went to the floor to discuss repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for homosexual service members. He began discussing his experiences doing USO tours and diverged from his prepared remarks to specifically talk about one particular tour.
“The last four years, I was in Iraq and Afghanistan and Kuwait, and I’d go with a very eclectic tour of guys and women. Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. Country western artists,” Franken said. “Almost all of them were very right-wing, and we love each other, because we went on these tours.”
He then discussed one show in particular that involved Tweeden and lasted four hours.
“During the show, I was kind of a co-host with a beautiful woman named Leeann Tweeden, and we’d do comedy routines, and we’d introduce music and introduce the cheerleaders, and I’d go out and do a monologue. And this was something I would do—I’d done for a number of years,” Franken said.
Franken said on that day he went off on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy as discriminatory. His remarks as prepared for delivery read as follows:
Let me also briefly tell you about my experience. Before I was a Senator, I did a number of USO tours over the years. And on each tour, I was more and more impressed by the men and women of our military.
I always did Don’t Ask Don’t Tell material, and over the years that I did the tours, you could feel the change in the military.
I was on, I think, my seventh tour. As we always did, we had an eclectic show, and it was a long show too. Most of the troops would be standing for four hours during the show, though I remember during this one particular show at one of our bases, there was a group of female soldiers sitting in the bleachers who were particularly enthusiastic.
The troops loved the show, probably because otherwise they spent all of their time either in danger, or incredibly bored.
So I got to my Don’t Ask Don’t Tell material. “One thing I don’t get,” I’d say, “is Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The bravest serve. Take your commander, for instance. He’s one of the bravest men ever to serve in the U.S. military. And he’s also one of the gayest. General, stand up, thank you!” The troops loved this, they thought it was hilarious, everyone was cheering and laughing – maybe especially those female soldiers up in the bleachers.
And at the end of the show, there was a very moving performance of a patriotic song, which was always very emotional. The commander gave each of us a flag that flew over the base – I still have it in my office – and he told me, “Al, keep telling those Don’t Ask Don’t Tell jokes.” And that group of female soldiers up in the bleachers came up to me after the show to tell me how much they loved my Don’t Ask Don’t Tell material, and that it was personally important to them.