Army Veteran Stephanie Kemplin has accused Al Franken of groping her during a 2003 photo op in Kuwait, making her the fifth woman to come forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against the Democratic senator.
Radio personality Leanne Tweeden was the first to accuse Franken of impropriety, saying that he both groped and forcibly kissed her during their 2006 USO tour together. Texan Lindsay Menz subsequently came forward accusing Franken of grabbing her butt during a photo op at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010; two other women reported similar incidents to The Huffington Post but chose not to go on record.
A spokesman for Franken has issued a statement in response to Kemplin’s allegations claiming that Franken “takes thousands of photos and has met tens of thousands of people and he has never intentionally engaged in this kind of conduct. He remains fully committed to cooperating with the ethics investigation.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Kemplin Served in the U.S. Army National Guard for 8 Years, Including a 19-Month Tour in Iraq
According to her profile on ACP AdvisorNet, Kemplin was a sargent in the U.S. Army National Guard for eight years. She was deployed on active duty to Iraq for 19 months and was also deployed to New Orleans in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city:
I served 8yrs in the Ohio Army National Guard as an MP. Spent 19mo in Iraq from 2/2003 – 9/2004 then deployed a year later to assist with Hurricane Katrina. Loved being in, but decided to cut my career short when I ETS’ed in 3/2008 after delivering my daughter.
2. She Claims Franken Groped Her During a Photo Op While She Was Serving in Iraq
“When he put his arm around me, he groped my right breast. He kept his hand all the way over on my breast,” Kemplin told 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,” she added, noting multiple times that she had felt embarrassed by the incident.
“I remember clenching up and how you just feel yourself flushed. 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. She was 27 years old at the time of the incident and Franken participating in a USO tour. A fellow participant in the tour, radio host Leanne Tweeden, has also accused Franken of touching her inappropriate for a photo op.
“It was long enough that he should have known if it was an accident. I’m very confident saying that,” said Kemplin.
3. Kemplin Says She Was Too Shocked & Embarrassed to Take Action Against Franken at the Time
Kemplin’s older sister, Amy Muddiman, told CNN she recalled hearing of the incident shortly after it happened. “I just remember her telling me that he grabbed her breast and that she was so shocked about it,” said Muddiman. “My sister is pretty bold and assertive and she said that she didn’t know what to do.”
CNN noted that Kemplin “repeatedly” used the world “embarrassed” to describe her immediate reaction to the incident. “I did not process it in those split seconds,” she told the news network, adding that she did not discuss it with her fellow soldiers, only with family members and an ex-boyfriend, who also confirmed to CNN that she told him what happened shortly after the fact.
“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?”
Kemplin told CNN that she “felt like the rug was pulled out from underneath me” when she saw Tweeden go public with her own story. She contacted the radio host via social media, then spoke to her on the phone a few days later.
The women had several conversations about Franken before Tweeden urged Kemplin to go public, asking her if she could put her in touch with a CNN reporter to tell her story.
4. Kemplin Says She Was a Victim of Sexual Assault in 2003, Just Months Prior to Her Encounter With Franken, & Now Suffers From PTSD
A few months before Franken came to Iraq on the USO tour, Kemplin reported to her platoon sergeant, Sean Chambers, that she had been sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier with whom she shared a tent. CNN did not disclose the details of the assault at her request.
The National Guard began an investigation into Kemplin’s allegations of “indecent assault,” but she was ultimately told the the behavior, while inappropriate, did not constitute assault. She further says that she was advised at the time not to let male specialists get so close to her.
“I believe Stephanie. I believe that something did happen. I’ve seen sexual assault victims before in my line of work and the trauma that they face and there’s no doubt in my mind that something happened,” said Chambers of the incident. “I was really pissed off. It was not right. My reaction was: when is it ever the victim’s fault?”
Kemplin told CNN that she suffers from PTSD since returning home from Iraq.
5. Kemplin Lives in Warren County, Ohio, With Her Family & Is Pursuing Nonprofit Work
On her ACP AdvisorNet profile, Kemplin says she retired from the National Guard after giving birth to her daughter in 2008, receiving an honorable discharge. Kemplin’s platoon sergeant described her to CNN as a “model soldier.”
She now resides with her family in Warren County, Ohio, where she works as a federal investigator for Medicare fraud and plans to open a nonprofit geared toward helping victims of human trafficking:
I have a passion for serving others and protecting the weak and vulnerable. I have degrees in Business and Criminal Justice & currently work as an investigator for Uncle Sam. I am in the process of opening a nonprofit in Warren County Ohio for human trafficking survivors. We will also operate a small animal sanctuary onsite that will be used for animal therapy. This is God’s will for my life and I’m humbled to answer His calling and walk this path with Him.
According to CNN, Kemplin is a registered Republican who voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election.