Three dozen women who were a part of Saturday Night Live released a statement defending Democratic Sen. Al Franken, who Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden accused of groping and kissing her without consent in 2006.
The women wrote that they were “offering solidarity in support of Franken,” who was a writer and cast member on SNL for nearly 20 years.
In her account, Tweeden said that Franken insisted on practicing a kiss he wrote into a skit they were going to perform in front of soldiers overseas. Tweeden said she continued to refuse practicing the kiss, but eventually relented because she felt “uncomfortable” and wanted Franken to “stop badgering me.”
“We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth,” she said. “I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.
“I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth. I felt disgusted and violated.”
She also posted an image that showed Franken groping her breasts as she was asleep.
Franken, accused of pinching the butt of a second woman in 2010, apologized, saying he would welcome a Senate ethics investigation into his actions. And the 36 women wrote in their letter that while Franken acted “stupid and foolish,” they never experienced any sexual harassment from him.
“We feel compelled to stand up for Al Franken, whom we have all had the pleasure of working with over the years on Saturday Night Live,” they wrote. “What Al did was stupid and foolish, and we think it was appropriate for him to apologize to Ms. Tweeden, and to the public In our experience, we know Al as a devoted and dedicated family man, a wonderful comedic performer, and an honorable public servant.”
Immediately, many people took to Twitter to debate if the letter was hypocritical or justified.
For some, it was the former — and they questioned if Franken’s party affiliation swayed reactions to the allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
While others worried if this letter could have a “chilling effect” on other women considering if they should come forward with their own tales of sexual harassment.
But not everyone was offended by the letter, arguing that there is a clear difference between what Franken is accused of and the accusations against others like Roy Moore, who allegedly made sexual advances toward multiple teenaged girls when he was in his thirties.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Thursday that “with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter.”
McConnell added that he hoped Democratic leader Chuck Schumer would join him on the issue.
“Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable–in the workplace or anywhere else,” McConnell said in the statement.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, called the allegations “disturbing” and said they should be investigated — and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed.