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Franni Bryson is the wife of U.S. Senator Al Franken (Minnesota). Bryson grew up in Portland, Maine, with her mom and her four siblings; her dad died in a car accident before she turned 2.
On Thursday, November 16, a woman named Leeann Tweeden came forward with claims that Franken “kissed and groped” her during a USO Tour trip, back when Franken was working as a comedian.
Here is what you need to know:
1. Franken Released a Statement Shortly After Tweeden’s Comments
Tweeden told her story to KABC, saying that Franken made her feel uncomfortable when it came to “practicing a kiss” for their upcoming skit at the USO Tour trip back in 2006.
“I felt disgusted and violated,” Tweeden told KABC of the encounter. “…Someday, I thought to myself, I would tell my story. That day is now. Senator Franken, you wrote the script. But there’s nothing funny about sexual assault,” Tweeden recalled.
A short while after KABC published Tweeden’s story, Franken released a statement, offering an apology to Tweeden.
“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it,” read Franken’s statement.
Below is a photo of Franken and Tweeden at the USO event.
2. Bryson Met Franken in College & They Have Been Married for More Than 40 Years
Although Bryson’s family didn’t have a lot of money, she was able to attend college by way of Pell Grants and scholarships. She was enrolled at Simmons College when she met Franken, a freshman at Harvard University. The two crossed paths at a mixer, according to Franken’s website — and the rest was pretty much history.
“He bought her a ginger ale, asked her to dance, and today they’ve been married for more than 37 years – ‘many of them happy,’ as Al likes to joke.”
Bryson and Franken got married in 1975 had two children together, Thomasin and Joe. Both of Franken’s children are now grown and married with kids of their own. Thomasin and her husband, Brody, are parents of Joe and Avery, while Joe and his wife, Stephanie, have one son named Jacob.
Thomasin followed in her father’s footsteps, obtaining her degree from Harvard. She works as a public school teacher in the Bronx. Her brother, Joe, graduated from Princeton and MIT and works as an investor in New York.
Below is the Franken family’s holiday photo, which Al shared on Instagram last year.
Last month, Franken wished his wife a happy anniversary on Facebook.
“Franni and I just celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary. We’ve been together since 1969. I met her at a college mixer during our freshman year. I saw her across the room as she was organizing a group of girls to leave. I liked how she was taking charge. And I thought she was beautiful… Happy anniversary, Franni. I love you and it’s been a joy having you by my side,” Franken’s message read.
3. Bryson Struggled with Alcoholism & Opened Up About it in an Ad for Franken’s Campaign
Fairly early on in the couple’s married, Bryson struggled with alcoholism. Although this struggle has been a very personal one, Franken has never publicly spoken about his wife’s battle, according to the Star Tribune.
However, Bryson opened up about her battle in an ad for her husband’s senate campaign in 2008.
“At one point in our life, I struggled with alcohol dependency… How could a mother of two fabulous, healthy children be an alcoholic? … When I was struggling with my recovery, Al stood right by my side … The Al Franken I know stood by me through thick and thin, so I know he’ll always come through for Minnesotans,” Bryson said in the ad, which you can watch below.
4. Bryson Appeared as Herself in Franken’s 2006 Documentary, ‘Al Franken: God Spoke’
In 2006, Al Franken: God Spoke was released. The 1 hour, 30 minute documentary featured Franken’s wife, Franni, who appeared as herself.
The film document’s Franken’s rise in the world of political punditry. It highlights his notable feud with former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly (also accused of sexual misconduct) and his vehement opposition to the campaign of incumbent President George W. Bush leading up to the 2004 presidential election.
Other figures featured in the film include allies such as Michael Moore, Al Gore, and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Some of Franken’s opponents who also appeared include Ann Coulter and O’Reilly.
The film was produced by noted documentary filmmaker Frazer Pennebaker, who’d previously produced the feature The First Amendment Project: Fox vs. Franken, which detailed the lawsuit between the two titular parties over Franken’s use of Fox News’ slogan in the title of his book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.
5. Amy Klobuchar Was Once Mistaken for Franken’s Wife
Klobuchar (D) is a senior senator in the state on Minnesota. She was elected to office in 2006, the first woman to represent Minnesota in the U.S. Senate.
Just last month, Klobuchar spoke at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C. During her speech, she shared a story from when she was on a flight from Washington, D.C., to Minnesota with Senator Franken and had been was mistaken for his wife.
“[T]he plane was filled with Minnesotans, but the flight crew was from Atlanta. [The] flight attendant was very exuberant, and she gets on the microphone and says, ‘Everyone, we have celebrities on the plane! Mr. and Mrs. Al Franken!’” Klobuchar recalled.
She told the flight attendant that she was another senator from Minnesota, but the case of mistaken identity continued.
“The flight attendant gets back on the microphone and says, ‘How cool is this, husband and wife senators!’” Klobuchar said.