12:47, November 20 414 0 theguardian.com

2017-11-20 12:47:02
Second woman comes forward to say Al Franken inappropriately touched her

A second woman has come forward and accused Al Franken of inappropriately touching her, this time since he took office as senator from Minnesota.

According to CNN, Lindsay Menz, 33, said Franken grabbed her buttocks in 2010 while the two were posing together for a photo at a state fair in Minnesota.

The allegation comes days after Franken apologized to Leann Tweeden, a Los Angeles-based television anchor, after she accused him sexual misconduct during a 2006 tour of the Middle East to entertain US troops.

In that incident, which occurred before he was a member of Congress, Tweeden said Franken forcibly kissed her while rehearsing for a skit and shared a photo in which he appeared to place his hands over her breasts as she slept.

Menz said her own encounter with Franken, which she described as “uncomfortable”, took place two years after he was elected to the Senate. Menz, who is now a resident of Texas, had stationed herself at a booth inside the state fair sponsored by her father.

Franken came by, she said, “pulled me in really close, like awkward close, and as my husband took the picture, he put his hand full-fledged on my rear”.

“It wasn’t around my waist. It wasn’t around my hip or side. It was definitely on my butt,” Menz said, while noting the interaction lasted three or four seconds.

“I was like, oh my God, what’s happening.”

A photo released by Menz shows Franken standing close to her, although his hands are not visible.

Franken told CNN in a statement he did not recall his meeting with Menz but said he felt “badly” for how she felt following their interaction.

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

Menz’s husband and parents also said she immediately told them about Franken’s actions at the time. Menz posted the photo of her and Franken to her Facebook profile on 27 August 2010, according to CNN. When her sister observed how close together she and Franken were posing, Menz responded: “Dude -- Al Franken TOTALLY molested me! Creeper!”

Menz said she was encouraged to come forward after Tweeden came forward last week. Although she and her husband voted for Donald Trump in November, Menz said neither is registered with a political party and have voted for both Democrats and Republicans in the past. Menz could not remember if she voted for Franken.

In the wake of Tweeden’s allegation last Thursday, Franken vowed to cooperate with a Senate ethics committee investigation into his conduct. Congressional leaders from both parties called for a formal inquiry but stopped short of calling on Franken to resign.

Franken said he felt “disgusted” by the photo in which he appeared to grope Tweeden, or at a minimum pretended to do so.

“I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse,” he said. “I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny.

“I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t,” he added. “And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.”

Franken has been regarded as a potential Democratic contender for president in 2020. He is the latest prominent figure to face allegations of sexual misconduct, as a flood of women have come forward to describe harassment and abuse across all industries.

Donald Trump, who has been accused of sexual assault by at least 16 women, criticized Franken in a series of tweets last week.

“The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?” Trump wrote.

At the same time, the president has been less forthcoming about Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate Republican candidate who has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct. Several of Moore’s accusers have said he groped them when they were teenagers, with one alleging that the former judge assaulted her when she was 14 years old.

The White House said said Trump believes Moore’s fate should be left to voters in Alabama. Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president, suggested on Monday that despite the allegations facing Moore, his vote would be necessary for Republicans to pass tax reform.