After writing a revealing editorial in which she accused Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) of groping her breasts and kissing her without consent, radio host Leeann Tweeden went on her morning show McIntyre in the Morning on Thursday to discuss the allegations for the first time live on the air.
Tweeden, who was cohosting the 2006 USO tour with Franken, said she and the then-comedian were rehearsing a skit for the show when Franken suddenly forcibly kissed her.
"We rehearse the line and I'm coming towards him, and he comes up, and he grabs me, and he puts his hand behind my head, and he aggressively comes in and mashes his mouth up against mine, and he sticks his tongue in my mouth," Tweeden told her cohosts.
"It happened so fast," she added. "His mouth is just wet and slimy and to this day I call him fish lips."
The recollection echoes the story Tweeden shared Thursday morning in the editorial she wrote titled, "Senator Al Franken Kissed and Groped Me Without My Consent, and There’s Nothing Funny About It."
In the article, Tweeden also mentioned a photograph taken of her while she was sleeping on the plane home to Los Angeles from Afghanistan, in which Franken is seen placing his hands over her chest. Owen Franken was the photographer for USO during this tour, but the USO could not confirm he took the photo.
"There's a picture of me sleeping in my gear on the plane, and there's Al Franken literally in the photo grabbing my boobs with his hands...and looking at the camera and smiling with this smirk," Tweeden said on the air.
“[Franken] knew that I wouldn’t see that photo until I got home,” she said, adding that the photo was included in a CD given to talent after the tour ended. “There were other people that were awake on that plane…that probably were laughing at it. Just that mentality that he thought he could get away with this and that it was funny? When I opened that photo when I got home, it was embarrassing. I felt belittled. I felt ashamed, and I’m thinking I’ve had to live with this for 11 years.”
When asked why she waited over a decade to speak out, Tweeden said "the times were different" and she was "worried" about her career.
"People are going to go, 'Oh, you're a model, you've been on the cover of Playboy, you're a lingerie model and a swimsuit model'...Are they going to believe you?," she said she asked herself. "They're just going to bury you. They're going to look for all of the bones in your closet. Somehow it was going to be my fault. Somehow it was going to come down on me. It was not going to be worth the fight. It was not going to be worth the hassle."
Tweeden also shared that she did not need a public apology from the senator because they had crossed paths several times since the 2006 USO tour, and the incidents were never addressed.
"If he feels like he wants to apologize to me, he can do that," she said. "That's fine I'll take his apology. I've lived my life beyond that. I don't need anything from Al Franken. I've moved beyond that."
However, Franken did apologize Thursday. He issued a statement in response to the allegations, Politico reports.
"The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leanne, to everyone else who was a part of that tour, to everyone who was worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women."
"I respect women. I don't respect men who don't," he added. In response to the photo Tweeden shared, Franken said he felt "disgusted" with himself and that it "isn't funny."
The full statement can be read here.
The USO also did not find the humor in the photograph. The nonprofit organization issued a statement to Cosmopolitan.com on Thursday that read, "This incident was never reported to the USO. We have no knowledge of it. The report is deeply disturbing and does not reflect the values of the USO."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter Thursday he expects the Ethics Committee to look into the allegations made against Sen. Franken.
Correction: An original version of this post indicated that Franken’s brother took the photo of Tweeden. He was the photographer on the tour, but USO could not confirm he took the picture.