Politics

2nd woman accuses Senator Al Franken of inappropriate touching

A second woman has come forward complaining that Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken touched her inappropriately.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press/File 2017
A second woman has come forward complaining that Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken touched her inappropriately.

WASHINGTON — A second woman says Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, touched her inappropriately, telling CNN that he grabbed her rear end while her husband took a photo of the two of them at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.

Franken has already been caught up in controversy over allegations by Leeann Tweeden, a radio news anchor in California, that he forcibly kissed her while he was working as a comedian in 2006. He has issued an apology and has supported calls from both Democrats and Republicans for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate.

The new accusation, made by Lindsay Menz, 33, of Frisco, Texas, is the first to involve Franken’s time as a senator.

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CNN reported Monday morning that Menz reached out to the network after Tweeden went public last week, saying that she wanted to share an “uncomfortable” interaction that left her feeling “gross.”

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She told CNN that she attended the Minnesota State Fair with her husband and father in summer 2010. Her father’s business was sponsoring a local radio booth, she said, and she spent the day meeting various elected officials and political candidates, including Franken, who was elected in 2008.

When Franken walked into the booth, she said, they had a brief exchange and her husband held up her phone to take a picture of the two of them.

The network quoted her as saying that Franken “pulled me in really close, like awkward close, and as my husband took the picture, he put his hand full-fledged on my rear,” adding, “it was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek.”

Franken issued a statement to CNN, saying, “I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don’t remember taking this picture. I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected.”

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The accusations involving Franken come amid a roiling debate over sexual harassment and abuse that has cost powerful men their jobs in media and the entertainment industry. The question for Franken, now that a second woman has come forward, is whether his political career can survive.

Franken has received support from his female aides; 14 women who have worked for him have issued a statement saying he treated them with the “utmost respect” and “valued our work and our opinions.”

Franken, 66, is the latest public figure to be caught in the deluge of revelations of sexual harassment and misconduct that have crushed careers, ruined reputations, and prompted criminal investigations in Hollywood, business, and beyond.

He has apologized to Tweeden, and she has accepted the apology.

Franken canceled a sold-out book festival appearance scheduled for Monday in Atlanta to speak and promote his book, ‘‘Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.’’ He hasn’t appeared in public since Tweeden’s allegation.

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The accusations against Franken come as Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, faces calls to drop out of a special election amid accusations that he pursued or assaulted underage women in the 1970s and 1980s.

While senior congressional Republicans have called on Moore to exit the race, he has so far refused to do so. Moore has denied the allegations.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the White House stand on Moore hasn’t changed, and Alabama voters should decide his fate.

Her comments followed White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s assertion that a vote for Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, would be a ‘‘vote against tax cuts.’’

‘‘Obviously, the president wants people both in the House and the Senate who support his agenda,’’ Sanders said.

Moore’s accuser, Leigh Corfman, said Monday that she was ‘‘absolutely not’’ paid to speak publicly now about her sexual encounter with Moore when she was 14.

Corfman was the first woman to publicly accuse Moore of sexual misconduct since his nomination. She said on NBC’s ‘‘Today Show’’ that she decided against going public previously because she was afraid that her children would be shunned in Alabama, where Moore became a state judge.

Corfman said she agreed to share details only after The Washington Post sought her out and gave her assurances she wasn’t the only one accusing Moore of misconduct. “My bank account has not flourished. If anything it’s gone down because I'm not working,’’ she said.

In New Mexico, a rising star in the Democratic Party who has garnered national attention for tackling poverty in the state is fighting for his political future amid decade-old allegations he sexually harassed women.

Democratic state Senator Michael Padilla is facing calls to drop his bid for New Mexico lieutenant governor after the Associated Press began asking elected officials about the cases.

Two federal lawsuits say Padilla harassed women while managing an Albuquerque emergency call center in 2006.

The city ended up settling claims linked to a sexually hostile work environment. Padilla has long denied the accusations.

Democratic US Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham, who’s running for New Mexico governor, said last week that Padilla should exit the lieutenant governor race because of the old cases.

At least two female political leaders have pulled endorsements.

On Sunday, actor Jeffrey Tambor said he doesn’t see how he can return to the Amazon series ‘‘Transparent’’ after two allegations of sexual harassment against him.

In a statement, Tambor referred to what he called a ‘‘politicized atmosphere’’ that has afflicted the set.

Two women have come forward during the past few weeks to accuse Tambor of sexual harassment, including ‘‘Transparent’’ actress Trace Lysette and his former assistant, who Tambor said was disgruntled.

‘‘I've already made clear my deep regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being aggressive, but the idea that I would deliberately harass anyone is simply and utterly untrue,’’ Tambor said Sunday.