Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., on Monday faced new allegations of inappropriately touching women, but there are no signs he plans to step down amid the swirl of controversy now surrounding him.
The latest accusation surfaced when Lindsay Menz, 33, of Frisco, Texas, told CNN that Franken, 66, grabbed her when they posed for a photo together at the 2010 Minnesota State Fair. Franken, a second-term senator, already faces a Senate ethics investigation into allegations that he inappropriately touched a fellow performer on a USO tour in 2006.
He is the first sitting lawmaker to face accusations by women of inappropriate behavior in the wake of an ongoing wave of allegations against powerful men across American society.
Menz said she attended the fair with her husband and father and met the senator at a local radio booth sponsored by her father's business. As her husband held up a phone to take the photo, Franken "pulled me in really close, like awkward close, and as my husband took the picture, he put his hand full-fledged on my rear," Menz told CNN. "It was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek."
"It wasn't around my waist. It wasn't around my hip or side. It was definitely on my butt," she told the news channel. "I was like, oh my God, what's happening."
In a statement to CNN, Franken did not deny the incident took place.
"I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don't remember taking this picture. I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected," Franken said in a statement to CNN.
Franken's office did not return a separate request for comment. Over the weekend, an aide told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Franken planned to spend the Thanksgiving holiday week with his family in Washington, "and he's doing a lot of reflecting."
Multiple senior Democrats on Monday said Franken is not expected to resign over the latest allegations, nor is he expected to face calls for his ouster from Democratic congressional colleagues. These Democrats, who were granted anonymity to speak frankly about the matter, said they see no reason for Franken to step down as long as he agrees to participate in an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee.
Last week Republicans and Democrats quickly denounced Franken after Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles radio news anchor and former model, accused the senator of forcibly kissing her and later grabbing her breasts while she slept on the flight home during an overseas USO tour in 2006. She offered photographic proof of the latter accusation.
In response, Franken apologized and agreed to face an ethics investigation. He also contacted Tweeden, apologized and asked to meet with her. She said on a national television program that she would do so.
The growing accusations against Franken come as Alabama Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore faces calls to drop out of a special election amid accusations first reported by The Washington Post that he pursued or assaulted underage women in the 1970s and 1980s.
While senior congressional Republicans have called on Moore to exit the race, he has so far refused to do so.