“It’s my right as an entertainer,” is what Al Franken (D-Minn.) reportedly told a former Democratic congressional aide when he attempted to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006, three years before he became a U.S. senator.
According to a report in Politico on Wednesday, the unidentified aide said Franken pursued her after her boss had left the studio.
“He was between me and the door and he was coming at me to kiss me. It was very quick and I think my brain had to work really hard to be like, ‘Wait, what is happening?’ But I knew whatever was happening was not right and I ducked,” the aide said in an interview. “I was really startled by it and I just sort of booked it towards the door and he said, ‘It’s my right as an entertainer.’”
In her mid-20s at the time of the incident, the former staffer said she did not respond to the married man’s advances.
Prior to this latest accusation, six other women had come out to say the comedian-turned-politician groped or tried to forcibly kiss them. Franken responded to past allegations of sexual misconduct during a Sunday interview with local Minnesota news station WCCO, saying that he can’t rule out having behaved this way with women in the past. However, this time, he says the staffer is lying.
“This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation,” Franken said in a statement to Politico.
Two former colleagues of the woman independently corroborated her version of events, including Franken telling her he had the right to try to kiss her because he was “an entertainer.”
A longtime Democrat, the former aide said she is not attempting to force Franken out of office by coming forward now, but she wants him to admit what he’s done.
“His resignation is not the top of the list there. That’s not my point. It’s not up to me what he does,” the former staffer said. “I don’t want to be in the position of deciding whether to tell this story but I’m not the person who put me in that position. He did that. I think for this moment in time to lead to meaningful change there has to be more than ‘I’m ashamed but I remember things differently’ accounting.”
The former staffer said she had mostly kept quiet about the encounter, but it was the emergence of the now-infamous “Access Hollywood” video of Donald Trump talking about women who allow famous men to grope them that triggered her need to hold the politician accountable for his despicable actions.
“When it really started impacting me in more of [an] ‘I’m really angry about this’ way was last fall when the Trump tape came out,” the former aide said. “Hearing Donald Trump say essentially the same thing that Al Franken said to me, which was, ‘It’s my right as an entertainer,’ …. that was a real trigger.”
Franken has agreed to cooperate with a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into his behavior.
“I do feel this very heavy responsibility to speak the truth,” the former staffer said. “I don’t think that there are different versions of truth and that’s what’s bothered me a lot about [his] responses.”
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