Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., broke eight days of media silence and addressed sexual harassment allegations in a series of interviews on Sunday.
“I’m embarrassed and ashamed. I’ve let a lot of people down and I’m hoping I can make it up to them and gradually regain their trust,” Franken told the Minnesota Star Tribune. He also said he would returning to work on Monday.
Franken spoke to the Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Broadcasting and CBS Minnesota about the accusations he's facing on Sunday. The latter two interviews will be released later in the day.
The two-term Minnesota senator had not spoken in person to the press for over a week, days after the controversy was sparked by Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles radio news anchor. She claimed that during a 2006 USO tour Franken forcibly kissed her while they rehearsed a skit together and groped her later on a plane. An alarming photograph appeared to back up her accusation.
Lindsay Menz, 33, told CNN that Franken grabbed her posterior when the two posed for a photo in 2010. Franken was a senator at the time. One of the women who spoke to the Huffington Post also said that Franken cupped her buttocks while taking a photo together.
NBC News has not verified those reports.
“I don’t remember these photographs, I don’t,” Franken told the Star Tribune, adding that he had posed for countless photos. “This is not something I would intentionally do.”
Franken said he was blindsided by the allegations and added that he had used the past week to think “about how that could happen.”
“I just recognize that I need to be more careful and a lot more sensitive in these situations,” he said
Franken told the Star Tribune that he didn’t think any additional women would come forward, but said he could be wrong.
“If you had asked me two weeks ago, ‘Would any woman say I had treated her with disrespect?’ I would have said no,” he said. “So this has just caught me by surprise ... I certainly hope not.”
Franken has issued multiple apologies for the allegations via written statements. The interviews with Minnesotan local media were the first time he has spoken publicly about the controversy.
“I know I have a lot of work to do to regain the trust of the people I’ve let down, the people of Minnesota, my friends and colleagues, everyone who counts on me to be a champion for women,” Franken said.
Nevertheless, he hopes to return to Washington D.C. to fulfill his duties as a senator.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow,” Franken said.