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Saying they "feel compelled to stand up for Al Franken," 36 women affiliated with "Saturday Night Live" during the now-senator's 20 years on the show have signed a letter countering sexual harassment allegations recently leveled against the Minnesota Democrat.
Signatories included original "SNL" cast members Laraine Newman and Jane Curtin, along with 34 women who worked on the show behind the scenes between 1975 and the present. Franken was a writer and performer on the NBC sketch comedy show primarily from 1975 to 1995.
"What Al did was stupid and foolish, and we think it was appropriate for him to apologize ...," the letter said. However, it continued, "after years of working with him, we would like to acknowledge that not one of us ever experienced any inappropriate behavior; and mention our sincere appreciation that he treated each one of us with the utmost respect and regard."
Curtin told the New York Times on Friday that she was surprised by broadcaster Leeann Tweeden's allegations against Franken.
"I'm just so upset about this atmosphere and good people being dragged into it," she said. "It's just like the red menace. You don't know who's going to be next.”
Curtin and Franken worked together on "SNL" from 1975 to 1980 and have remained friends.
Tweeden said last week that Franken forcibly kissed her and then groped her while she was asleep during a 2006 USO tour, before he was elected to the Senate in 2009. A second woman, Lindsay Menz, alleged Monday that he grabbed her butt during a photo opportunity at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.
Also Monday, Page Six ran a photo showing Franken apparently cupping Arianna Huffington's breast, but Huffington said, "The notion that there was anything inappropriate in this photo shoot is truly absurd."
Franken apologized to Tweeden on Thursday for what he called "completely inappropriate" behavior; this week, he told CNN he didn't remember posing for the picture with Menz but felt "badly" that she felt disrespected after their interaction.
"I respect women. I don't respect men who don't," Franken said last week. "And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed."