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“Comedy is no excuse for inappropriate conduct”: Democrats respond to Al Franken allegations

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Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken is coming under fire from both his Republican and Democratic colleagues in the Senate in light of allegations that he groped a woman in 2006.

Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden came forward Thursday with allegations that Franken, who has served in the US Senate since 2009, forcibly kissed her during a comedy skit rehearsal and then posed in a photograph groping her while she slept during a 2006 USO tour in the Middle East.

As Senate colleagues in Congress grapple with the allegations — and the photographic evidence — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for an investigation into Franken’s conduct in the Senate’s Ethics Committee, which many top Democrats echoed. The Senate unanimously passed a resolution to mandate sexual harassment prevention training just last week.

“I hope and expect that the ethics committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Franken, who first said he did not remember the rehearsal in the same way and said the photograph was “intended to be funny but wasn’t,” later acknowledged the offense and pain his actions have caused and apologized for the incident. He has also said he will “gladly cooperate” with an ethics investigation into his actions.

Here’s how members have responded to the allegations:

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)

“There is never an excuse for this behavior — ever. What Senator Franken did was wrong, and it should be referred to the Ethics Committee for review,” Durbin, who is the Democratic whip, said in a statement.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

Klobuchar, also a Minnesota senator, said in a statement that “this should not have happened to Leeann Tweeden,” and went on to “strongly condemn this behavior” and call for an ethics committee investigation.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

“I’m shocked and concerned. The behavior described is completely unacceptable. Comedy is no excuse for inappropriate conduct, and I believe there should be an ethics investigation," McCaskill said in a statement. McCaskill is a lead co-sponsor on numerous efforts to strengthen laws against sexual assault.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)

Kaine, who called the behavior “unacceptable,” was less certain when asked if Franken’s apology was enough:

Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT)

“I was amazed. Not only was it inappropriate, it was not something I’d expect from Sen. Franken. But I’ll let him speak to it.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)

Harris said the allegations were “very troubling,” according to the Washington Post. “Sexual harassment, misconduct, should not be allowed by anyone and it should not occur anywhere against anyone.”

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH)

“This type of conduct is completely unacceptable and must be taken extremely seriously. Actions like that weren’t funny then and they aren’t funny now, and I fully support an ethics committee investigation,” Hassan said.

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN)

“This type of conduct is completely unacceptable and must be taken extremely seriously. Actions like that weren’t funny then and they aren’t funny now, and I fully support an Ethics Committee investigation,” Donnelly told reporters.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

“I am deeply disappointed. This type of behavior is unacceptable for any public official. I support the ethics committee process and investigation into this inappropriate conduct and look forward to hearing more from my colleague on this matter,” Cortez Masto said in a statement.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI)

“Well, what I’ve seen so far is disturbing. But I haven’t really had a chance to read the article … but certainly on the surface, it’s disturbing,” Peters told reporters.

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