Democratic Sen. Al Franken apologized Monday for letting people down amid allegations he sexually harassed several women, saying he will be accountable for his actions and work to regain the public's trust.
The senator from Minnesota only took a few questions from reporters, repeating his previous statements that he felt "embarrassed" and "ashamed."
"I know there are no magic words I can say to regain your trust and I know that is going to take time," he said Monday afternoon. "I'm ready to start that process and it starts with going back to work today."
When Franken was asked when he believes allegations should lead to a resignation, the senator said he is not going to "speculate on that." He also could not say whether he thinks more women will come forward with allegations against him.
"If you had asked me two weeks ago, would any woman come forward with an allegation like this, I would have said 'no,'" Franken said. "This has been a shock, and it's been extremely humbling."
"I am going to work to regain their trust," he said. "I am going to be accountable. We are going to cooperate completely with the ethics investigation."
Monday's news conference marked the first day Franken returned to Capitol Hill after the allegations were revealed.
In recent weeks, at least four women have accused Franken of sexually harassing and groping them. On Nov. 16, radio anchor Leeann Tweeden said Franken forcibly kissed her in 2006 while the two were on a USO tour to perform for troops in the Middle East.
Tweeden also shared a photo of Franken pretending to grab her breasts while she was asleep. Hours after Tweeden's account, Lindsay Menz tweeted that Franked grabbed her buttocks while posing for a photo in 2010.
During Monday's press conference, Franken said he recalled the rehearsal with Tweeden differently, but did not elaborate on his memory of it.
"I feel that you have to respect women's experience," he said.
Another two unidentified women have also accused the senator of groping their buttocks while posing for a photo and at a fundraiser during his 2008 campaign for Senate. One of the two women said Franken suggested they go to the bathroom together.
Franken denies ever asking a woman to join him in a bathroom. He had previously said he would "gladly cooperate" with an ethics investigation that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for after Tweeden's account was published.
The senator also apologized and said he understands "why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences." He added on Nov. 23:
Some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate, and I respect their feelings about that. I’ve thought a lot in recent days about how that could happen, and recognize that I need to be much more careful and sensitive in these situations. I feel terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again.
And speaking to the Star Tribune on Sunday, Franken said he was “embarrassed and ashamed,” and was “looking forward to getting back to work” in the Senate.
“I've let a lot of people down and I'm hoping I can make it up to them and gradually regain their trust,” he said Sunday.
Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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