Arianna Huffington, Former 'SNL' Cast and Staff Support Al Franken Amid Sexual Harassment Claims

Huffington denies that Franken groped her in photos from 2000, while 36 women who worked with the comedian on the NBC show state that the Minnesota senator never treated them inappropriately.

AceShowbiz - Arianna Huffington has denied an article suggesting that Al Franken groped her breast and butt during a photo shoot in 2000. New York Post's Page Six recently pointed out that the former "Saturday Night Live" star grabbed the media mogul's buttocks in some never-before-published images. In another snap, the comedian appeared to cup her breast while they posed on a bed.

"Franken was clowning around, but it really isn't funny," a source from the shoot told the site. "That's his tactic, pretend like it's all a big joke. Arianna was pushing his hands away. He was groping her. There was some fun attached to it, but she wasn't enjoying it. She definitely told him to stop and pushed him away."

The source added, "Franken stood there with his hand on her bottom for a long time, because there are numerous frames, each taken seconds apart, and his hand was there the whole time - his hand wasn't just there for a quick moment."

Huffington, however, begged to differ. In a statement to The Post, she said, "The notion that there was anything inappropriate in this photo shoot is truly absurd." She continued, "Al and I did a comedic sketch for Bill Maher's 'Politically Incorrect' called 'Strange Bedfellows', in which the whole point, as the name makes clear, was that we were doing political commentary from bed. This shoot was looking back at the sketch, and we were obviously hamming it up for comedic effect."

"I've been great friends with Al and his wife Franni for over 20 years and there has never been anything remotely inappropriate in our interactions," she went on taking Franken's side.

Huffington also took to Twitter to clear up any misinterpretation of the pics. "I think I'm a better judge of how I felt in that satirical photo shoot with Al Franken than the recollections of an anonymous bystander," she tweeted. "I thought the point of this moment was to believe women's accounts of their own experiences."

Referring to another photo with Franken, she wrote, "Just got more photos from the same 'scandalous' photo shoot. Here instead of Al Franken 'groping' me, I'm 'strangling' him." The founder and former editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post mockingly added, "I hope the statute of limitations has expired."

Former "Saturday Night Live" female stars and staff have also come in Franken's defense. Thirty-six women who worked with the Minnesota senator on the NBC sketch series signed a statement which declared that Franken never treated them inappropriately. They included former cast members Jane Curtin and Laraine Newman as well as veteran show producer Marci Klein.

"We feel compelled to stand up for Al Franken, whom we have all had the pleasure of working with over the years on 'Saturday Night Live'," the statement began. "What Al did was stupid and foolish, and we think it was appropriate for him to apologize to Ms. Tweeden, and to the public."

It continued, "In our experience, we know Al as a devoted and dedicated family man, a wonderful comedic performer, and an honorable public servant. That is why we are moved to quickly and directly affirm that 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 of us with the utmost respect and regard."

The statement concluded, "We send our support and gratitude to Al and his family this Thanksgiving and holiday season."

Previously, ABC broadcaster Leeann Tweeden accused the comedian of kissing and groping her without her consent during a 2006 USO tour. A second woman, Lindsay Menz, claimed that Franken placed his hand on her behind while posing for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.

Following the claims, Franken has offered three apologies to Tweeden for his behavior. He has also responded to Menz's allegation, saying that he didn't remember taking the photo but felt "badly" that Menz felt disrespected.

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