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Minnesotan leaders tough on Franken incident

Undated courtesy photo, circa Feb. 2015, of Ken Martin, who was re-elected in Feb. 2015 to a third two-year term as chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

ST. PAUL — Some of the strongest comments against U.S. Sen. Al Franken's inappropriate 2006 behavior toward a female entertainer came from members of his own Democratic-Farm-Labor Party.

"We are incredibly disappointed in Sen. Franken," DFL Chairman Ken Martin said after West Coast broadcaster Leeann Tweeden posted on Facebook her story about the 2006 USO tour she and Franken were on.

Martin said as sexual allegation reports across the country add up that "it becomes even clearer how pervasive sexual harassment is throughout our society."

Martin said his party wants a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into Franken's action, which the senator himself supports. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, another Minnesota Democrat, also said that is what should happen.

Franken was seen in a picture holding his hands above a sleeping Tweeden's chest, like he was ready to grab her. Tweeden also said he forcibly kissed her.

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., called the allegations "disturbing" and "completely inappropriate."

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said he was "shocked." to hear the report. He said that after he served in the ethics committee when he was a senator, he knows it has "a well-established and highly respected process for reviewing situations like this and making the right decisions."

Minnesota Republican U.S. Reps. Jason Lewis and Tom Emmer said all sexual harassment allegations should be taken seriously.

"Suffice it to say, anyone who commits sexual assault isn't fit for public office," Lewis said.

Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan issued a call for Franken to resign. "Al Franken's weak, equivocating apology isn't going to cut it. To quote Sen. Franken just yesterday — 'sometimes when you don't get a joke, it's because it wasn't a joke.'"

A Franken statement said: "Coming from the world of comedy, I've told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren't the point at all. It's the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I'm sorry it's taken me so long to come to terms with that."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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