U.S. Senate Ethics Committee opens probe of Senator Franken

The U.S. Senate Ethics Committee said on Thursday it has opened a preliminary inquiry into alleged misconduct by Senator Al Franken, who has been accused of sexual misconduct and inappropriately touching women.

Franken, a Democrat, said this week he was embarrassed and ashamed by his behavior but would not resign. He said he would cooperate with an Ethics Committee investigation.

"While the committee does not generally comment on pending matters or matters that may come before it, in this instance, the committee is publicly confirming that it has opened a preliminary inquiry into Senator Franken's alleged misconduct," the committee said in a statement.

Asked for comment, a spokesperson for Franken said the senator was committed to cooperating fully with the ethics investigation.

Franken is one of several prominent American men in politics, media and entertainment to be accused in recent months of sexual harassment and misconduct.

He was accused of sexual misconduct by Leeann Tweeden, a radio broadcaster who in 2006 appeared with Franken in an entertainment tour for U.S. troops serving in war zones.

Another woman, Lindsay Menz, accused Franken of touching her buttocks when they were being photographed at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.

Prior to winning his Senate seat in 2008, Franken was a well-known comedian, television writer and author. (Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Eric Walsh and Howard Goller)