Two more women have come forward with stories of sexual assault by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) from the early 2000s. One Army veteran says Franken groped her breast during a USO tour photo opportunity, and the other, a former New England elected official, says he kissed her cheek in an attempt to kiss her on the mouth during a live radio show taping.
Both women’s accounts were published on Thursday morning, the former by CNN and the latter by Jezebel. They are the fifth and sixth women to come forward with allegations of sexual assault against Franken.
According to CNN, Army veteran Stephanie Kemplin was stationed in Kuwait in December 2003 when she met Franken, a comedian and writer at the time who was on his USO tour. Kemplin, 27 and a military police officer at the time, said she was a longtime fan of Saturday Night Live, and took the opportunity to take a picture with Franken. That’s when she said he groped her:
“When he put his arm around me, he groped my right breast. He kept his hand all the way over on my breast. I’ve never had a man put their arm around me and then cup my breast. So he was holding my breast on the side…I remember clenching up and how you just feel yourself flushed. And I remember thinking—is he going to move his hand? Was it an accident? Was he going to move his hand? He never moved his hand…It was long enough that he should have known if it was an accident. I’m very confident saying that.”
Kemplin said the touching lasted between five to 10 seconds before she turned her body to move Franken’s hand off her breast before their photo was taken. Franken does not appear to be holding onto her breast in the photo. Kemplin is the second women speak out about Franken’s behavior while on his USO tour.
Speaking with a CNN reporter, Kemplin broke into tears, saying she felt “so sorry for that young girl in that picture.” Kemplin said one of the reasons the news of Franken’s other accusers was so impactful was because months before Franken groped her, she had been assaulted by a male specialist who she shared a tent with. CNN confirmed Kemplin had reported the assault to her platoon sergeant and that she had previously told her sister and an ex-boyfriend about Franken’s behavior.
The second woman who came forward on Thursday, a former elected official in New England who remains anonymous, said Franken tried to give her a “wet, open-mouthed kiss” while onstage for a live taping for Air America, the radio station Franken hosted, in 2006. Franken announced his run for Senate the following year.
According to Jezebel, the woman, who was chair of her town’s select board at the time, was invited to be a guest during the taping. After the interview, she said she went to shake Franken’s hand, but instead was met with an opened-mouth kiss:
“I reached out my hand to shake his…He took it and leaned toward me with his mouth open. I turned my head away from him and he landed a wet, open-mouthed kiss awkwardly on my cheek…I was stunned and incredulous. I felt demeaned. I felt put in my place…It was onstage in front of a full theater…It was insidious. It was in plain sight and yet nobody saw it…The other women’s accounts of [Franken] grabbing their buttocks in front of their mothers and husbands, I believe them.”
Jezebel confirmed that the woman had told her sister, as well as a friend, immediately after the incident took place.
“My intent in coming forward is not to negate the good work he’s done or smear his name,” the woman told Jezebel. “I want him to take personal responsibility for his actions, learn from this, not repeat the behavior, and go forward with respect in all his interactions with women.”
A spokesperson for Franken did not respond to Jezebel’s request for comment but reiterated a previous statement to CNN regarding Kemplin’s photo op with the senator: “As Sen. Franken made clear this week, he takes thousands of photos and has met tens of thousands of people and he has never intentionally engaged in this kind of conduct. He remains fully committed to cooperating with the ethics investigation.”