Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) apologized “Thursday after a female broadcaster said the lawmaker groped and kissed her without her consent during a 2006 trip overseas.
“Multiple Democratic senators quickly broke with Franken after Leeann Tweeden, a radio anchor for Los Angeles’ KABC, wrote Thursday about the senator’s admitted misconduct. Tweeden described harassment by Franken while she and the comedian, then a host on liberal talk radio, toured the Middle East to entertain military personnel in 2006.”
“Some of Franken’s fellow Democrats readily shared their dismay at his actions as Tweeden’s story swept through the Capitol. A growing awareness of sexual harassment’s prevalence is propelling a push to overhaul Capitol Hill’s system for handling workplace misconduct complaints.
“‘I have every reason to believe Ms. Tweeden’s account,’ Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) told reporters. ‘I think that women should be able to feel safe and free in their workplace, and if there are such allegations they should come forward.’ Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) called Franken’s behavior ‘unacceptable,’ adding that he believes Tweeden. ‘Sexual harassment and groping are never okay,’ Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told reporters. ‘Sen. Franken will have to address the allegations in the article.’ (Politico)
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: “Sexual harassment is never acceptable and must not be tolerated. I hope and expect that the Ethics Committee will fully investigate this troubling incident, as they should with any credible allegation of sexual harassment.”
“Many Democrats also returned money that Franken or his political action committee had contributed to the campaign: Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, for instance, donated $30,000 of Franken’s contributions to charity.” (McClatchy)
While Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a leader on women’s rights, “is planning to donate the money she has received” from Franken’s political action committee. (The Hill)
She also said on Thursday “that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency after his inappropriate relationship with an intern came to light nearly 20 years ago.” (New York Times)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Franken’s friend and fellow Senator in Minnesota, recently introduced a Senate bill that was passed to require mandatory sexual harassment training. On Thursday, she said: “This should not have happened to Leann Tweeden. I strongly condemn this behavior and the Senate Ethics Committee must open an investigation. This is another example of why we need to change work environments and reporting practices across the nation, including in Congress.” (West Central Tribune)
FLORIDA. “Six former Florida Democratic Party staffers and consultants say that current party Chairman Stephen Bittel has created an unprofessional workplace environment for women that includes persistent inappropriate comments, leering at young women and even inviting them on his private jet.
“The women … said Bittel never inappropriately touched or threatened them. But he made them feel so uneasy that they didn’t want to be alone with him due to his body language, suggestive remarks and even the breast-shaped stress squeeze-ball he has been known to keep on his desk.”
“In a written statement, a spokesman for Bittel didn’t dispute the women’s accounts and acknowledged he had the breast-shaped stress balls. But, he said, they were a gift ‘from a former female general counsel of his company years ago as a joke for his birthday. He keeps them in a drawer with other gag gifts.’ Bittel also apologized.” (Politico)
MINNESOTA. Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party Chairman Ken Martin “announced that all campaigns receiving official party support from the Minnesota DFL Party will be required to attend a training on sexual harassment and workplace conduct.”
“‘The Minnesota DFL Party has a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment and expects our candidates and campaigns to follow this policy. The DFL will now require any campaign receiving official party support to attend a comprehensive training on sexual harassment. These trainings will be an important step toward setting clear expectations as to what constitutes professional workplace conduct, and deterring inappropriate behavior in the first place.” (release)
WISCONSIN. “The Wisconsin Democratic Party has named two new executive directors to lead operations of the party heading into the 2018 election. George Gillis will serve as executive director of political affairs while Breianna Hasenzahl-Reeder will be executive director of operations and party affairs.” (AP)
TEXAS. Steve Mostyn, “a top Democratic donor and prominent Houston trial lawyer, has died. He was 46.” (Texas Tribune)
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