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Franken Sets Example Of Responsibly, Calls For Ethics Probe On His Own Behavior

On Thursday, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is calling for an ethics investigation into his own behavior after a woman accused him of kissing and groping her without consent.

Franken in an expanded statement on Thursday apologized for the incident, in which he groped television host and sports broadcaster Leeann Tweeden while she was asleep on a military plane during a 2006 USO tour.

“I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences,” he said. “I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.”

In initial that statement, he wrote that he sent “my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” and said he should not have taken the photo, which he described as “clearly intended to be funny.”

A second statement came after Franken faced criticism from across the political spectrum that his first statement did not represent a real apology.

“The first and most important thing—and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine—is: I’m sorry,” he wrote in the new statement.

“I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t,” Franken continued. “And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.”

Franken repeated that he does not remember the rehearsal for the skit “in the same way” as Tweeden.

But he said Tweeden “deserved to be heard.”

“The truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories,” Franken said. “They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”

Meanwhile, Tweeden said on Thursday that she accepts Franken’s apology.

“People make mistakes and of course he knew he made a mistake,” she said. “So yes I do accept that apology.”

“There’s no reason why I shouldn’t accept his apology,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) have also called for an investigation into the allegations.

The controversy is also erupting as Alabama Senate GOP candidate Roy Moore is engulfed in a firestorm of accusations of sexual misconduct, including assault, brought by a number of women. The accusers say that Moore pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.

McConnell has said Moore will face an immediate ethics investigation if elected.

The accusations against Franken also come amid a push to combat sexual harassment on Capitol Hill.

“Over the last few months, all of us—including and especially men who respect women—have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women,” Franken’s statement Thursday said.

Here is Franken’s statement in full:

“The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine—is: I’m sorry.

“I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.

“But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us—including and especially men who respect women—have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.

“For instance, that picture. I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.

“Coming from the world of comedy, I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren’t the point at all. It’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come to terms with that.

“While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.

“I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.

“And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”

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