Senator Elizabeth Warren on Thursday condemned the alleged actions of Al Franken, her liberal colleague from Minnesota who’s accused of forcibly kissing and groping a woman 11 years ago, but stopped short of calling on her fellow Democrat to resign.
“The behavior reported today is unacceptable and deeply disappointing,” Warren said in a statement. “I am glad Senator Franken has acknowledged as much and has agreed to cooperate with an ethics investigation. Women who come forward are brave and deserve to be respected. We’re not going to fix the problems of sexual harassment and assault until men take responsibility for their actions and change their behavior.”
Warren’s comments came hours after Leeann Tweeden, a California news anchor, went public with allegations that Franken forced her into an aggressive kiss during rehearsal for a skit to be performed on a USO tour. She also released a photograph of a smiling Franken putting his hands on her breasts while she slept during the flight home.
In a statement Thursday, Franken apologized to Tweeden and said he feels “disgusted” with himself for groping her in the photo. But he also reiterated an earlier statement that he doesn’t recall the kissing incident the way Tweeden described it.
However, he said, “I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.”
Winchester businessman John Kingston, a Republican vying for the GOP nomination to challenge Warren in her reelection bid, said Thursday that her response to the Franken news was tepid.
“Sen. Warren’s ‘disappointment’ is not enough,” Kingston said in a statement. “True leaders take action on principle rather than hiding behind words, and Sen. Warren should call for her Democratic colleague to resign, as she undoubtedly would if he were a Republican, given his acknowledged assault. Sen. Franken’s apology is not enough. Sen. Warren should do what is right and immediately join me in demanding Sen. Franken resign his seat in Congress.”
Kingston said Warren “has claimed solidarity with women who have been the victim of workplace harassment and abuse, so it would be unconscionable and the height of hypocrisy for Sen. Warren to remain silent in the face of such a serious accusation against her Democratic colleague.”
Warren’s spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry asking whether she felt Franken should resign.
Tweeden’s revelations also prompted a swift rebuke from Massachusetts State Representative Geoff Diehl, a Whitman Republican vying for the GOP nomination to challenge Warren in her reelection bid.
“Warren has made numerous videos with Senator Franken on a variety of issues,” Diehl said in a statement. “She knows him well. I am asking her to address the issue. Will she continue to make videos with him? More importantly, does she believe Franken should be able to serve in the Senate or not? Should he resign?”
Diehl took a different tack this week when commenting on Roy Moore, the GOP candidate for senator in Alabama who’s accused of sexually assaulting and making unwanted advances toward several teenagers decades ago.
“These are serious allegations,’’ Diehl said in a statement earlier this week. “If true, he should drop out.”
Those remarks prompted an apparent jab from longtime GOP operative Beth Lindstrom, who’s also seeking the Republican nomination for the seat currently held by Warren.
“No Republican should remain silent on Roy Moore,’’ she said in a statement. “Those who continue to waffle on whether or not Roy Moore should get out of the race should realize they are siding with a person who has made unwanted sexual advances on underaged girls. Roy Moore should not be allowed in, near or around the U.S. Senate.”
And on Thursday, Kingston, the Winchester candidate, trumpeted what he said was his willingness to “speak out against members of my own party when appropriate because I believe protecting women from harassment or abuse should never be a partisan issue. . . . Unlike Geoff Diehl and Elizabeth Warren, I will never put politics before what is right.”Christina Prignano, Frank Phillips, and Stephanie Ebbert of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.