© 2022 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
The 88.5 FM KMST Rolla transmitter is operating at low power while awaiting a replacement part. We expect this to be resolved around December 12th.

Franken's high-profile help to Missouri Democrats now may be an embarrassment

U.S. Sen. Al Franken speaks Saturday at the Truman Dinner in St. Louis. The Minnesota senator was the keynote speaker for the Missouri Democratic Party event.
Courtesy of the Missouri Democratic Party
/

Less than two weeks after U.S. Sen. Al Franken headlined the Missouri Democratic Party’s biggest event of the year, the Minnesota Democrat is back in the news over a groping allegation that is stirring up the state’s U.S. Senate race.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. and a longtime friend of Franken’s, announced Thursday that Missouri food banks will be getting $30,000 from her – representing the campaign aid she has received from Franken’s political action committee since 2006.

“I’m shocked and concerned.” McCaskill said in a statement. “The behavior described is completely unacceptable. Comedy is no excuse for inappropriate conduct, and I believe there should be an ethics investigation.”

A Republican challenger for the Senate, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, is pressing for further action by calling for McCaskill to also seek Franken’s resignation.

At issue is an allegation by a Los Angeles radio host, Leeann Tweeden, that Franken groped and kissed her during a 2006 USO tour to the Middle East. There’s also a photo from the trip that shows Franken putting his hands on Tweeden’s chest while she is apparently sleeping. He was not in the Senate at the time.

Franken apologized in a statement Thursday, and has called for an ethics investigation into his own behavior. In addition to McCaskill, Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has echoed the call for an ethics inquiry.

Tweeden told reporters at a Los Angeles news conference that she believes he’s sorry and is not calling for Franken to step down from the Senate. Tweeden said her stance may change if more women come forward.

But Missouri Republicans are pressing for a resignation, and for the state Democratic Party to return money it raised earlier this month when Franken headlined the party’s Truman Dinner downtown.

Franken and his leadership committee, called the Midwest Values PAC, has been helpful to several Missouri Democrats, notably McCaskill. The PAC has donated the maximum $10,000 to each of her Senate campaigns, including the current one. Additionally, Franken spoke to Missouri Democrats who attended the party’s national convention in 2016 in Philadelphia.

News of the harassment allegation comes as state Democrats have been targeting Hawley on several fronts. He has criticized fellow Republican Senate hopeful Roy Moore of Alabama, who is set to compete in Alabama’s special Senate election Dec. 12.

Several women have accused Moore of sexual misconduct or harassment, in some cases when the women were teenagers and Moore was in his 30s. He has denied any wrongdoing. Hawley is calling for Moore to drop his Senate bid unless there is “rock solid’’ evidence that he’s innocent.

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.