Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) apologized again Monday during a news conference — and announced his intention to go back to work and learn from his mistakes.
Franken, accused of sexual harassment, explained a previous statement acknowledging he could not guarantee that new accusers would not emerge because he would have said several weeks ago no one would have made that claim. But then radio host Leeann Tweeden accused him of aggressively kissing her during a rehearsal for a comedy bit they performed during a USO tour before he was elected to the Senate.
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“This has been a shock, and it’s been extremely humiliating,” he said. “I am embarrassed. I feel ashamed.”
Franken said he would continue to learn from his mistakes, but again refused to resign.
“I’m going to go back to work, and I’m going to work as hard as I can for the people of Minnesota,” he said.
Franken has tried to walk a middle ground on allegations by Tweeden and other women who say he grabbed their buttocks while they posed for photographs after he became senator.
Franken told reporters that he remembers the kiss with Tweeden differently.
“But I feel that you have to respect women’s experience,” he said. “And so I apologized to her [Tweeden] and I meant it, and I was, you know, very grateful that she accepted it.”
Franken said he does not recall the butt-grabbing incidents at all.
“There are some women — and one is too many — who feel that I have done something disrespectful,” he said.
Franken said he is open to making the results of a forthcoming Senate Ethics Committee investigation public. But he brushed aside questions about what type of conduct would be severe enough to trigger a resignation. He said he would not engage in speculation.
Franken said he would try to do better.
“I know that I am going to have to be much more conscious in these circumstances, much more careful, much more sensitive,” he said.
Franken also said he realizes it will take time to rebuild trust.
“I know that I’ve let a lot of people down, people of Minnesota, my colleagues, my staff, my supporters, and everyone who has counted on me to be a champion for women,” he said. “To all of you, I just want to again say I’m sorry. I know that there are no magic words that I can say to regain your trust. I know that that is going to take time.”