New Accuser Says Franken Groped Her During USO Tour In 2003

Alex Brandon/AP

An Army veteran, who met Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) when he performed in Kuwait during a 2003 USO tour, has come forward saying Franken groped her breast when the two took a photo together, CNN reported.

Stephanie Kemplin, who is now 41, is the fifth woman who has come forward to accuse the senator of alleged inappropriate touching or sexual misconduct in recent weeks, and the second to say the incident took place during a USO tour.

Kemplin told CNN she got in line to take a photo with Franken. When he put his arm around her for the picture, he allegedly cupped her right breast, she told CNN.

“He kept his hand all the way over on my breast,” she told CNN. “I’ve never had a man put their arm around me and then cup my breast. So he was holding my breast on the side. … I remember clenching up and how you just feel flushed. And I remember thinking — ‘Is he going to move his hand? Was it an accident? Was he going move his hand?’ He never moved his hand.”

She said Franken kept his hand there for long enough that “he should have known if it was an accident.”

“I’m very confident saying that,” she said, adding that she shifted her body to move his hand before the picture was taken. CNN obtained a copy of the photo.

She said she recalls feeling stunned and unable to process what happened.

“I was in a war zone. … You were on a USO tour, are you trying to boost the morale of the troops or are you trying to boost your own. I just feel so sorry for that young girl in that picture,” she said of the photo of herself. She was 27 at the time of the alleged incident.

A spokesperson for Franken’s office repeated a line the senator has offered after similar allegations of misconduct have surfaced — that Franken takes “thousands of photos and has met tens of thoughts of people and has never intentionally engaged in this kind of conduct.”

The spokesperson told CNN that Franken intends to continue to cooperate with the Senate Ethics Committee investigation, which was launched at Franken’s request after an LA radio host came forward, alleging Franken aggressively kissed her during a rehearsal for a performance on a USO tour. She also alleged that Franken groped her while she was sleeping during the trip home from the tour.

Since the radio host Leeann Tweeden came forward, three more women have gone public with claims that Franken groped them when they took photos with him. Franken has apologized to Tweeden and the other women who have come forward, but he has combatted parts of their stories. At a news conference, Franken said all the accusations have been “a shock” for him.

“It’s been extremely humbling. I am embarrassed. I feel ashamed,” he said.   

Kemplin said at the time she felt “put on the spot” and questioned whether she should tell someone, but ultimately decided to not tell any fellow soldiers. She did, however, tell her sister and her ex-boyfriend about the incident, both of whom told CNN they remember Kemplin recounting what happened. She said she felt she needed to come forward after other women made claims because the alleged groping was particularly shocking for her at the time. Weeks earlier she said she had been sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier, an incident CNN was able to confirm through military documents.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.
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