White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that the allegations of sexual assault against Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) are different from those President Donald Trump has faced because Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
A reporter asked Sanders during the daily press briefing if it would be fair to investigate the claims of sexual assault that more than a dozen women made about Trump during the 2016 campaign. Senators are currently calling for an ethics investigation into whether Franken should keep his seat ― a probe that Franken himself says he supports.
“I think that this was covered pretty extensively during the campaign,” Sanders said. “We addressed that then. The American people, I think, spoke very loud and clear when they elected this president.”
“How is this different?” the reporter asked.
“I think in one case specifically, Sen. Franken has admitted wrongdoing, and the president hasn’t,” Sanders replied. “I think that’s a very clear distinction.”
Franken, who on Thursday was accused of kissing and groping anchor Leeann Tweeden in 2006 without her consent, has issued an apology.
“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” he said. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”
Trump tweeted later Thursday about the allegations, referring to a photo that appears to show Franken touching Tweeden’s breasts while she was asleep.
Trump has denied all of the allegations against him. And last month, Sanders said the official position of the White House is that all 16 women who accused Trump of sexual misconduct are lying.
“We’ve been clear on that from the beginning and the president has spoken on it,” she said at the time.
Trump has also brushed off his own boasts of grabbing women “by the pussy” ― a comment famously captured on a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape ― as “locker room talk.”
During Friday’s briefing, Sanders continued to dodge questions about Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Multiple women have accused Moore of sexually harassing or assaulting them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Sanders called the allegations against the Republican nominee “troubling,” but declined to say whether Trump believes them.
“He feels like it’s up to the governor and the people in the state of Alabama to make a determination on whether or not they delay that election or whether or not they support and vote for Roy Moore,” she said.
Moore has also denied all the allegations against him, and his legal team has sought to discredit some of the women who have come forward.