MINNEAPOLIS — Former U.S. Sen. Al Franken told The New Yorker magazine he regrets resigning after several women accused him of sexual improprieties.
“Oh, yeah. Absolutely.” Franken told reporter Jane Mayer in his first interview since he resigned in late 2017 as a U.S. senator for Minnesota. The story appears on the magazine’s website and in the July 29 print edition.
Mayer wrote that seven current and former senators told her they regretted calling for Franken’s resignation without a thorough investigation into the claims made against the Democrat.
Leeann Tweeden, a conservative talk-radio host, accused Franken of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour. Seven more women, several anonymously, also came forward and said Franken inappropriately touched or kissed them.
The allegations came at the height of the #MeToo movement and Franken faced immense pressure to step down. He denied the allegations against him.
Franken told the magazine he has always believed claims of sexual impropriety should be taken seriously, but he expressed frustration with the way the allegations against him were handled. He also said he understood the public might not want to hear his complaints.
“I don’t think people who have been sexually assaulted, and those kinds of things, want to hear from people who have been #MeToo’d that they’re victims,” Franken told the magazine.
Mayer’s reporting calls into question Tweeden’s claims that Franken acted inappropriately with her in 2006. At the time, both Franken and Tweeden called for a formal investigation, but one never occurred.
Tweeden declined to comment for the magazine’s story.
Tweeden’s allegations also included a photograph in which Franken appears to be grabbing her breasts while she is sleeping. Franken said the picture was part of a series of silly photographs taken at the end of the USO tour, but that he understood how it could be considered inappropriate.
“If you’re asleep, you’re not giving your consent,” Franken is quoted as saying. “I genuinely, genuinely felt bad about that.”
Franken’s resignation in December 2017 led to then-Gov. Mark Dayton appointing Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to his Senate seat. Smith went on to win re-election in 2018 and will be on the ballot again in 2020.
Franken was first elected to the Senate in 2008, narrowly defeating Norm Coleman by 312 votes. He easily won re-election in 2014.
Mayer has done other reporting about the #MeToo movement. Mayer and colleague Ronan Farrow wrote an article in May 2018 detailing allegations of abuse by then-New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The story led to Schneiderman’s resignation hours after its publication.