Army veteran says Sen. Al Franken groped her during USO tour

Stephanie Kemplin is the fifth woman to recently come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Sen. Franken.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

An army veteran and a former elected official in New England are the latest to join a growing group of women who have accused Sen. Al Franken of sexual misconduct.

Stephanie Kemplin, 41, told CNN she met the Minnesota Senator while he was still a comedian and writer on a USO tour back in 2003. He was visiting the American troops in Iraq while she was deployed in Kuwait.

Kemplin, who was 27 at the time, was among the many who lined up to snap a photo with Franken, which he allegedly used as an opportunity to grope her.

“When he put his arm around me, he groped my right breast,” she told the news station. “He kept his hand all the way over on my breast. I’ve never had a man put their arm around me and cup my breast. So he was holding my breast on the side.”

The army veteran, who worked as a military police officer, said the contact lasted to the point where she knew it wasn’t an accident. 

“I remember I kept thinking, is he going to move his hand? Was it an accident? Was he going to move his hand? He never moved his hand,” she told the news station, estimating that the touching lasted between five and 10 seconds.

The Ohio woman is the latest to recently accuse Franken of groping and is the second to allege it took place while the senator was on USO tour. Kemplin’s account is similar to those of the others who have come forward with their own allegations against the Democrat.

Two women, who did not wish to be identified, accused Franken of grabbing their buttocks in 2007 and 2008. Lindsay Menz told CNN earlier this month the Senator groped her while they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.

“As Sen. Franklin 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,” Franken’s spokesperson said in a statement. “He remains fully committed to cooperating with the ethics investigation.” 

Franken last week in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio admitted he was unsure whether or not more women would come forward with accusations.

“If you had said to me two weeks ago that a woman was going to say that I had made her uncomfortable and disrespected her in one of these ways I would have ‘no,'” Franken said. “So, you know, I don’t know. I can’t say.”

He added that the misconduct accusations have “been a shock,” but that he was hoping to learn from them.

“I’m someone, who, you know, hugs people,” Franken said. “I’ve learned from these stories that in some of these encounters I’ve crossed the line for some women.”

A New England woman also came forward Wednesday, hoping her story would prompt the senator to take responsibility for his actions.

The woman, who did not wish to be identified, told Jezebel she was working as the chair of her town’s Selectboard in 2006, when Franken visited as radio host for Air America. She was invited on stage with Franken to be interviewed for a live taping of his show.

.@LeeannTweeden writes, “You…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.”

The only person who should be ashamed in this photo is @SenFranken pic.twitter.com/sjHpwC9HKL

— Amber Athey (@amber_athey) November 16, 2017

“I reached out my hand to shake his hand,” she said, recalling the end of the interview. “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.”

The string of allegations come after Los Angeles morning news anchor Leeann Tweeden claimed Franken forcibly kissed and groped her while the pair were on a USO tour in 2006.

Kemplin said she felt as though “the rug was pulled out from underneath” her when Tweeden came forward.

In interviews with the news station, Kemplin repeatedly called incident “embarrassing” and said she remembers feeling “numb” at the time. It was particularly difficult, she said, because she had previously been the victim of sexual assault while serving overseas.

According to documents obtained by CNN, Kemplin was told by officials the incident was “totally inappropriate behavior” but that her comrade was not guilty of “indecent assault.” Instead she was told that she was “responsible” for allowing him to get close to her.

Kemplin said she didn’t say anything to Franken during or after the photo was taken.

Now a federal contractor investigating Medicare fraud and a registered Republican, Kemplin said she struggled to re-acclimate when she returned home from Iraq. She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has trouble sleeping.

“I was in a war zone … You were on a USO tour. Are you trying to boost the morale of your troops or are you trying to boost your own?” she wondered. “I just feel sorry for that young girl in the picture.”

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