A former elected official in New England who has requested anonymity tells Jezebel that Al Franken attempted to give her a “wet, open-mouthed kiss” onstage at an event in 2006, shortly before he ran for Senate. The woman says the encounter left her “stunned and incredulous.”
In recent weeks, five women have said Franken touched them inappropriately, most notably broadcaster and model Leeann Tweeden, who described him forcibly kissing her with tongue during a USO tour and “jokingly” groping her breasts for a photo while she slept. Four women have also said that Franken groped them during photo ops, including the latest, Stephanie Kemplin, on Thursday morning. (Three women say Franken groped them while taking campaign photos, while Kemplin says he touched her breast while posing for a photo during a USO tour in 2003.) After a brief apology tour, Franken returned to work in the Senate on Monday.
The New England woman told Jezebel she came forward in an effort to encourage Franken to take responsibility for his actions, but didn’t wish to be named.
“I want my name associated with my own accomplishments,” she told us, “and not publicly linked to a man’s bad behavior.”
According to the woman’s account, she was working as the chair of her town’s Selectboard in 2006 when Franken, who was then a host for the progressive radio station Air America, came to her community. The woman was invited to appear as a guest in a live taping of his show and be interviewed in a theater in front of a large audience. Jezebel has independently confirmed that she appeared on the show.
After the interview, the woman tells us, “I reached out my hand to shake his.” Then, she says, “He took it and leaned toward me with his mouth open. I turned my head away from him and he landed a wet, open-mouthed kiss awkwardly on my cheek.”
The woman says she was in disbelief. “I was stunned and incredulous. I felt demeaned. I felt put in my place.” She says, too, that although they were in an extremely public place, no one noticed: “It was onstage in front of a full theater... It was insidious. It was in plain sight and yet nobody saw it.” She adds, referring to the women who say Franken groped them during photo ops: “The other women’s accounts of him grabbing their buttocks in front of their mothers and husbands, I believe them.”
The incident happened in the spring of 2006; Franken announced he was running for Senate in February 2007.
The woman’s sister confirmed to Jezebel that she told her about the incident right away. The official’s sister, who described her own politics as liberal, said “Honestly, it tainted my view of him.”
A friend of the woman told us that she, too, was told about the incident shortly after it took place. She again remembered the elected official had told her about it after seeing Leann Tweeden’s story, she says. “I said, wait a minute, this rings a bell.” She also describes her politics as liberal: “We don’t have an agenda to bring this guy down and we didn’t at the time.”
The former elected official tells us that while she’s long admired Franken’s politics, she decided to talk about the incident to encourage him to accept responsibility for his actions.
“My intent in coming forward is not to negate the good work he’s done or smear his name,” she told us. “I want him to take personal responsibility for his actions, learn from this, not repeat the behavior, and go forward with respect in all his interactions with women.”
Senator Franken’s press office and Franken himself have not yet responded to requests for comment from Jezebel.