U.S. Senator Al Franken, trying to salvage his political career amid accusations of groping or inappropriately touching women, said on Sunday he does not plan to resign but called himself “embarrassed and ashamed.”
Franken, a Democrat and former comedian who has represented Minnesota in the Senate since 2009, said in a round of media interviews – his first since the allegations surfaced on Nov. 16 – that he looked forward to returning to his job on Monday.
“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 reporters.
Franken resisted comparisons between his behavior and that of Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama who has been accused of improper conduct involving teenage girls decades ago.
“I‘m going to take responsibility. I‘m going to be held accountable through the ethics committee,” said Franken, whose behavior is being investigated by the Senate ethics panel. “And I‘m going to hopefully be a voice in this that is helpful… Again, I respect women. What kills me about this is it gives people a reason to believe I don’t respect women.”
Franken was first accused of sexual misconduct by radio broadcaster Leann Tweeden. She said Franken had forcibly kissed her during a 2006 USO war zone tour, and a photo showed him with his hands over her chest while she was sleeping.
Four days later, a woman named Lindsay Menz told CNN that Franken had touched her buttocks while the two were being photographed in 2010 at the Minnesota State Fair.
Franken has apologized to Tweeden, and has said he does not remember the incident with Menz. Last week, two other women told the Huffington Post Franken had touched their buttocks in separate incidents. The article did not provide the names of those two accusers.
Franken is among a long list of celebrities and politicians who have been accused of sexual misconduct. The recent wave of accusations, some of them dating back decades, began in October.