A new groping allegation has surfaced against former U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota as Franken has re-emerged into the public realm.
The woman made her allegation — that Franken groped her behind during a photo opportunity — without providing her name in a New York magazine cover story in which 25 women gave their accounts of grappling with surviving sexual aggressions that played out in #MeToo media coverage.
Franken resigned in January 2018 after eight women, some providing names and others withholding, made various allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior by the St. Louis Park native. Several of the allegations involved Franken groping them during photo-ops.
In the case of Franken’s latest accuser, this was her first time speaking publicly about the incident, which she said occurred in 2006, when she was an aide to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington. The magazine described the woman as “a former staffer who served on Democratic campaigns and works at a large progressive organization.
Murray was one of a number of female Democratic senators who demanded Franken resign — pressure that he has since said made it impossible for him to stay in office. A segment of Democrats felt he wasn’t given a fair shake.
After more than a year of keeping an extremely low profile, Franken, a founding member of “Saturday Night Live,” began to emerge this spring. In April, he launched AlFranken.com, and in May began a podcast featuring guests ranging from “SNL” alumnus Dana Carvey to political colleagues such as former U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
While Franken’s ultimate vision for his career remains unclear, he began attempting to rehabilitate his reputation by agreeing to an interview with the New Yorker for an in-depth piece that scrutinized some of the allegations against him and his rapid departure from politics. The piece did not exonerate Franken from a number of the allegations of groping. For the first time, Franken said he regretted resigning.
He also began expressing a nuanced response to the groping allegations — a response that likely gained its biggest audience on a recent interview with late-night host Conan O’Brien.
In that interview, Franken both defended himself — and didn’t.
“People who know me know that I’m not that guy,” Franken said during the interview. “The pressure came on me in no uncertain terms that I had to go.”
But he also expressed contrition for interactions that led to some women feeling violated.
He expressed a similar sentiment in this statement to New York magazine in response to the new allegation: “Two years ago, I would have sworn that I’d never done anything to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but it’s clear that I must have been doing something. As I’ve said before, I feel terrible that anyone came away from an interaction with me feeling bad.”
On Saturday, Franken launched a satellite radio show on SiriusXM.
The new allegation
She said Franken, then a talk-radio host eyeing a run for the Senate, groped her as she posed for a picture with him.
According to her description: “I was just out of college in my first job, working for U.S. senator Patty Murray. Al Franken was the guest speaker at an event in 2006. I was working the photo line, and he pulled me in. Murray said, ‘Let’s take the picture.’ And he puts his hand on my ass. He’s telling the photographer, ‘Take another one. I think I blinked. Take another one.’ And I’m just frozen. It’s so violating. And then he gives me a little squeeze on my buttock, and I am bright red. I don’t say anything at the time, but I felt deeply, deeply uncomfortable.”
The woman said she never came forward because she felt it would hurt her career, and she is still not coming forward with her name for that reason.
According to her account: “I thought for sure one young woman was going to push me over the edge to tell you my name for this story. And she was so clear that I should absolutely not come forward, because it was not worth it. It would prevent me from being able to do the jobs I’d hope to be considered for in the future. I have dreams of being a Cabinet secretary for the first female president. I have dreams of running a large organization. And I believe that even in the most liberal, progressive organizations in the world, it will still be held against me.”