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Leeann Tweeden, a morning news anchor on TalkRadio 790 KABC in Los Angeles and model, is accusing Senator Al Franken of groping and kissing her without her consent in an online essay.
“I’ve decided it’s time to tell my story. #MeToo,” she wrote, using the hashtag that took off in the wake of the accusations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, as people throughout the United States have shared stories of sexual abuse and harassment. Tweeden alleges that the incident with the Minnesota senator occurred as she “embarked on my ninth USO Tour to entertain our troops, my eighth to the Middle East since the 9/11 attacks.” She included a photo with the essay that appears to show Franken grabbing her breasts while she is sleeping in military gear.
Franken released a statement saying, “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.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Tweeden Accuses Franken of Grabbing Her Breasts Without Consent While She Was Sleeping & Provided a Photo of the Moment
In a detailed essay posted to the KABC website, Tweeden described how she went overseas to perform for the troops with Franken. “My father served in Vietnam and my then-boyfriend (and now husband, Chris) is a pilot in the Air Force, so bringing a ‘little piece of home’ to service members stationed far away from their families was both my passion and my privilege,” she wrote. Franken was part of a skit being performed for the troops, and she alleges that Franken wrote a kiss with her into the skit and then insisted she practice it backstage. She wrote that she “said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.”
Tweeden says she tried to avoid Franken after that, which she believes made him angry. “The tour wrapped and on Christmas Eve we began the 36-hour trip home to L.A. After 2 weeks of grueling travel and performing I was exhausted. When our C-17 cargo plane took off from Afghanistan I immediately fell asleep, even though I was still wearing my flak vest and Kevlar helmet,” she wrote. “It wasn’t until I was back in the US and looking through the CD of photos we were given by the photographer that I saw this one…” By “this one,” she was referring to the photo above, which she included with the article.
“I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep. I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?” she wrote, adding that she was too afraid to come forward before because she was worried doing so would affect her career. She wrote: “You knew exactly what you were doing. You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later, and be ashamed.”
2. Tweeden Is Known For Her Modeling & Television Work & Was Once a ‘Hooters Girl’
On Twitter, Tweeden defines herself as “Wife, Mom, Sportscaster, Model, TV Host, News Anchor on “McIntyre in the Morning”, 790 KABC. 5-10am PST M-F.” She has posted many photos of herself professionally with movie stars, music stars, and other political figures. She has had a successful career modeling. “She has appeared on the covers of FHM and Maxim, she has modeled for Sports Illustrated, and was the star of the Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog and the Venus Swimwear line. Her magazine covers are some of the highest selling of all time,” reports Military Spouse.
A short profile in Playboy Magazine described how Tweeden started working for Hooters. “She was waiting tables at a Hooters restaurant when she was given a ‘promotion’ – she did promotional modeling for Hooters, and was named one of the top Hooters girls of all time. From there, she modeled for Frederick’s of Hollywood, and was hired as a correspondent on Fox Sports’ Best Damn Sports Show Period. These days, she’s hedging bets on NBC’s Poker After Dark, and she designs a delicate line of lingerie,” reported the magazine.
3. Tweeden Has Toured War Zones at Least 16 Times & Her Husband Is Also in the Military
According to Military Spouse, Leeann Tweeden’s husband has also served in the U.S. military. The site describes how the couple met. “On her first tour in 2002, Leeann befriended the pilot of their C-130 Captain Tyler Thompson. He had forgotten his camera, but Leeann promised that if he gave her his email address, she would send him the pictures. True to her word, Leeann returned home and emailed the images,” the site reports.
“The two struck up a friendship. Through the years, Leeann stayed in contact with Tyler during her travels. On a trip back to Virginia in October 2004, Leeann invited Tyler to join her and her friends. Tyler asked to bring a friend from his unit; they were getting ready to deploy and had decided to take the weekend off. ‘Yes,’ she remembers saying. ‘I told him, ‘Yes, bring him; any friend of yours is a friend of ours.’” That friend ended up being her future husband, Chris Dougherty.
The article, written three years ago, noted, “Chris has transitioned from Active Duty into the Air National Guard. At the time of writing, Chris had just returned from another overseas deployment.” The story reports that many military members had described meeting Leeann personally and being charmed by her down-to-earth personality and concern for those serving in the U.S. military.
4. Leeann Tweeden Was Born in Virginia & Won a Talent Contest as a Teenager
It didn’t take long for Tweeden’s beauty and talents to be recognized. “Born in Manassas, Virginia, the splendid Miss Tweeden won a talent contest when she was just sixteen, and after graduating from high school – two years earlier than her peers – she moved to Hollywood to pursue a career as a model,” reported a short profile in Playboy Magazine.
5. Leeann’s Father Was an Air Force Mechanic
Tweeden’s father was a military man. “Leeann belongs to a military family as her father himself is a retired Air Force Chief Mechanic who worked in B-57s,” reports FrostSnow.