The cover story New York published this week centers on the stories of women and men who came forward about sexual abuse and harassment — and one who has not yet done so. In the issue, a woman who says former U.S. senator Al Franken groped her buttocks at an event in 2006 explains why she’s kept silent until now, and why she still fears using her name.
“I was just out of college in my first job, working for U.S. senator Patty Murray,” she told New York. Franken, then exploring a run for the Senate, was the guest speaker at Murray’s annual Golden Tennis Shoes Awards (named for a dismissive description of Murray, early in her political career, as a mom in tennis shoes).
The woman worked the photo line, and when it was her turn to be photographed with Franken, she said, “he puts his hand on my ass. He’s telling the photographer, ‘Take another one. I think I blinked. Take another one.’ And I’m just frozen. It’s so violating. And then he gives me a little squeeze on my buttock, and I am bright red. I don’t say anything at the time, but I felt deeply, deeply uncomfortable.”
A military veteran who is now a senior staffer at a major progressive organization, she is the ninth woman to accuse Franken of inappropriate conduct and the fourth to say Franken grabbed her butt. New York also spoke to three individuals in whom she had confided after the first Franken accusations emerged; she says that she did not tell anyone about the incident after it happened out of embarrassment.
Franken, who resigned under pressure in 2017 and will now host his own show on SiriusXM, told New York, “Two years ago, I would have sworn that I’d never done anything to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but it’s clear that I must have been doing something. As I’ve said before, I feel terrible that anyone came away from an interaction with me feeling bad.”
The woman says that at the time, she dreamed of running for office, and the incident “rocked my confidence … This created a moment of reflection on like, Who the hell do you think you are? There is something that tells men that they, particularly those who have a lot of power, that they have access to my body in some way that is based on the hierarchy of the organization that we’re working in or society or whatever it is.”
When she saw the first news alert about Franken, the woman said, she burst into tears. “I really considered adding my voice,” she said. But years after the Franken incident, she had reported unwelcome attention from her boss at work and ended up leaving the job after feeling ostracized.
She dreams of being a Cabinet secretary in a future Democratic administration, she said, and “knowing the vetting process, I know that anything can be used as a flag to say, ‘Not this person.’ The idea that I would not get a job and would always wonder: Was it the article where I was the one who was raising my hand against a powerful man?”