A fifth woman has come forward to accuse Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) of improper sexual conduct. The accusation comes from an army veteran who accompanied Franken on a USO tour in 2003.
The new accuser is Stephanie Kemplin, 41, of Maineville, Ohio. In 2003, Kemplin was deployed to Kuwait where she met Mr. Franken, who was taking pictures with the troops. Kemplin, at the time a 27-year-old fan of “Saturday Night Live,” stood in line to take a photo with Franken.
“When he put his arm around me, he groped my right breast. He kept his hand all the way over on my breast,” Kemplin said on CNN. “I've never had a man put their arm around me and then cup my breast. So, he was holding my breast on the side.”
“I remember clenching up and how you just feel yourself flushed," she said. "And I remember thinking -- is he going to move his hand? Was it an accident? Was he going to move his hand? He never moved his hand.”
Kemplin said that she was “embarrassed” by Franken’s behavior, which lasted for about 10 seconds.
“It was long enough that he should have known if it was an accident,” she said. “I'm very confident saying that.”
A photo taken at the time does not show Franken’s hand on Kemplin’s breast. Kemplin is leaning in towards Franken with her head touching his cheek. Franken’s right hand is visible on Kemplin’s back. His left hand appears to hang straight down at his side. Kemplin is smiling in the photo.
Kemplin said that she was stunned when the photo was taken and that she did not say anything to Franken at the time. She does not remember discussing the incident with fellow soldiers at the time, but did tell her sister and ex-boyfriend.
“You're immediately put on the spot. What are you going to do? What are you going to do? Your mind goes a mile a minute,” Kemplin said. “Who was I going to tell?”
“I just remember her telling me that he grabbed her breast and that she was so shocked about it,” Kemplin’s sister said. “My sister is pretty bold and assertive and she said that she didn't know what to do.”
A former boyfriend also verified that Kemplin told him that Franken “went to put his arm around her and copped a feel.”
Kemplin was the allegedly the victim of another sexual assault while deployed as well. She complained about another soldier who shared a tent with her in 2003, shortly after the incident with Franken. An investigation was launched, but the soldier was not charged.
The first accusation against Franken came from Leann Tweeden, a radio personality, who claimed that Franken kissed her and groped her on a different USO tour in 2006. Lindsay Menz accused Franken of feeling her butt while they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. An anonymous accuser claimed a similar experience in 2007 and calls Franken a “serial groper.” A second anonymous accuser says that Franken touched her butt and asked her to come to the bathroom with him at a Democrat fundraiser in 2008.
Franken has said that he does not remember groping the women and denied “proposition[ing] anyone to join me in the bathroom,” according to a statement.
“I'm someone who, you know, hugs people,” Franken said on Minnesota Public Radio. “I've learned from these stories that in some of these encounters I have crossed the line for some women.”
Kemplin, who is Republican, says that she knows not everyone will believe her. “Nobody wants to believe anybody if you don't immediately stand up and say something.”