Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), whom four women have accused of sexual misconduct, on Monday apologized for his “mistakes.” Franken also declined to say whether he thought the behavior he is accused of would be grounds for resignation.
“I know that I’ve let a lot of people down,” Franken told reporters at a press conference on his first day back in the Senate since radio host Leeann Tweeden accused him of forcibly kissing her and groping her while she was asleep during a USO tour in 2006, before Franken took office.
“I just want to again say I am sorry,” Franken said. “I know there are no magic words that I can say to regain your trust and I know that’s going to take time. I’m ready to start that process and it starts with going back to work today.”
“What behavior demands resignation?” a reporter asked Franken, whose spokesperson said last week that the senator has no plans to step down over the allegations.
“I’m not going to get into that or speculate on that,” Franken replied. “I have been trying to take responsibility by apologizing, and by apologizing to the people I’ve let down, and I’m going to work to regain their trust. I am going to be accountable.”
Franken said the accusations against him have been “extremely humbling.”
“I’m going to try to learn from my mistakes,” he said.
Asked about how his recollections differ from those of the women who have accused him of misconduct, Franken said, “There are different allegations.”
He cited Tweeden’s allegation that he forcibly kissed her, and his initial response last week that he “certainly” did not recall it “in the same way.”
“I said that I recall that differently from Leeann, but I feel that you have to respect women’s experience,” he said. “And so I apologized to her and I meant it.”
Asked whether he plans to release the findings of the Senate Ethics Committee probe into the allegations against him, Franken said he “will be open to that.”
“I have not worked with the Ethics Committee before and I don’t know how it works, but I’m certainly open to that,” he said.
Four women, including Tweeden, have accused Franken of groping them. Two women told HuffPost last week that Franken groped them in 2007, at an event hosted by the Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus in Minneapolis, and in 2008, at a Democratic fundraiser in Minneapolis, respectively. Lindsay Menz last week accused Franken of groping her in 2010, a year after he became a senator.
Franken apologized to Tweeden in two separate statements. On Sunday he told the Star Tribune that he has posed for “tens of thousands of photos” and does not “remember” those taken on the occasions corresponding to the allegations.
“I’m embarrassed and ashamed. I’ve let a lot of people down and I’m hoping I can make it up to them and gradually regain their trust,” Franken said Monday. “I just recognize that I need to be more careful and a lot more sensitive in these situations.”
Franken told Minnesota TV station WCCO on Sunday that he “can’t say” whether he’s ever groped a woman in a “crowded, chaotic” situation.
“I take thousands and thousands of pictures,” Franken said. “I can’t say that I haven’t done that. I am very sorry if these women experienced that.”
Franken said he is a “warm person.”
“I hug people, and in some of these encounters, the pictures or meetings, some women — and any is too many — have felt that I have crossed a line, and I am terribly sorry about that,” he said. “I don’t remember these particular photos.”