Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) returned to Capitol Hill on Monday amid mounting allegations of sexual misconduct, allegations that he says he's “embarrassed and ashamed” by but remains hesitant to fully admit to.
In a new interview on Monday with WCCO, Franken stopped short of outright denying claims that he grabbed multiple women by their bottoms during photo ops; instead, he said he can't fully denounce the charges.
“I can't say that it hasn't happened. In crowded chaotic situations, I can't say that I have not done that. I am very sorry if these women experienced that,” Franken said.
When asked if he expects more women to come forward with similar allegations, Franken again carefully deflected. “If you had told me two weeks ago that women were going to come forward and say I disrespected them, I would have said no.”
The Minnesota senator also held a brief press conference on Monday marking his return to Washington for the first time since the allegations broke. “I let a lot of people down,” he said.
“The people of Minnesota, my colleagues, my staff, my supporters, and everyone who has counted on me to be a champion for women. To all of you, I just want to again say I am sorry,” he said.
Franken returns to work amid a busy week in the Senate, with Republicans pushing for tax reform legislation and as another lawmaker, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), faces his own accusations of sexual misconduct.
Four women have now accused Franken of groping and other activities, including radio host and former model Leeann Tweeden, who was the first to come forward over a week ago with allegations against the Democratic senator.
Tweeden claims Franken pressured her to kiss him during rehearsals for a sketch during a USO tour performance. Tweeden also shared an image showing Franken appearing to grope her while she was sleeping.
Shortly after Tweeden shared her story, Lindsay Menz became the second woman to allege Franken inappropriately touched her, telling CNN that he “pulled me in really close, like awkward close, and as my husband took the picture, he put his hand full-fledged on my rear.”
Two other women then stepped forward with similar accusations, speaking to HuffPost on the condition of anonymity.
Franken reportedly plans to stay in the Senate, promising to “win back the trust of the people of Minnesota.”
Watch Franken's comments below, via Fox News.