Lil Peep, Rapper Who Blended Hip-Hop and Emo, Is Dead at 21


Lil Peep, who over the last two years emerged as one of pop music’s brightest and most promising young talents, blending the urgency and dexterity of contemporary hip-hop with the raw, serrated sentimentality of emo, died on Wednesday night in Tucson. He was 21.

Sarah Stennett, the chief executive of First Access Entertainment, a company that worked with Lil Peep since last year, confirmed the death in a statement. Ms. Stennett said she had “spoken to his mother and she asked me to convey that she is very, very proud of him and everything he was able to achieve in his short life.”

A spokesman for the Tucson Police Department said Lil Peep was pronounced dead on his tour bus at approximately 9 p.m. He had been scheduled to perform at a club called the Rock. Detectives found evidence suggesting that the rapper died of an overdose of the anti-anxiety medication Xanax.

Lil Peep was born Gustav Ahr on Nov. 1, 1996, and was raised in Long Beach, on Long Island, the son of a college professor father and an elementary schoolteacher mother. He took his name from a childhood nickname given by his mother.

After leaving high school early — he eventually got a diploma — he moved to Los Angeles to begin pursuing music in earnest, posting first on YouTube and eventually on the streaming platform SoundCloud, finding a rabid following. He put out his first mixtapes in 2015, and last year he released two, “Crybaby” and “Hellboy,” which marked him as a potent, forward-looking synthesizer of styles with an uncanny knack for pop songcraft.

Many of those songs were recorded in his bedroom when he was living on Los Angeles’s Skid Row. The months of making that music were, he said in an interview with The New York Times in April, an “absolute blur,” a stretch when he took to the microphone “when I was high enough to hear something and get inspired.” When he toured earlier this year, he recreated that bedroom on stage, using the actual mattress.

Lil Peep cut a striking figure: tall and gaunt; hair dyed pink or blonde; and wearing an elaborate array of tattoos, including the words “Get Cake Die Young,” and “Crybaby,” and an anarchy symbol on his face. He moonlighted as an occasional runway model.

“It’s like professional wrestling — everyone has to be a character,” he told the music website Pitchfork.

But he also struggled with drug use and suicidal impulses dating to his teenage years, he told The Times. The frankness with which he spoke about the difficult parts of his life led to an especially intense connection with his fans.

“They tell me that it saved their lives,” he said, describing what his fans told him about his music. “They say that I stopped them from committing suicide, which is a beautiful thing.”

“It’s great for me to hear,” he continued. “It helps. It boosts me, because music saved my life as well.”

Sylvester Stallone denies sexually assaulting 16-year-old fan

BBC – Actor Sylvester Stallone has denied reports that he and a bodyguard sexually assaulted a 16-year-old fan in Las Vegas in the 1980s.

The Mail Online has published what it says is a police report dating from 1986, which detailed the allegations.

The young woman did not press charges, the report said, because she was “humiliated and ashamed”, as well as being “scared”. No action was taken.

The Rocky star’s spokeswoman said the story was “categorically false”.

Michelle Bega described the allegation as “ridiculous”, adding: “No one was ever aware of this story until it was published today, including Mr Stallone.

“At no time was Mr Stallone ever contacted by any authorities or anyone else regarding this matter.”

The alleged victim said she became intimidated and frightened when the star’s bodyguard became involved in the incident in a hotel room, according to the 12-page police report.

The report says the girl alleged they met in July 1986 in what was then the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel when she got an autograph from Stallone, then 40.

She claimed a bodyguard gave her keys to a hotel room, where she later had sex with both men.

The officer wrote: “She said that after she got dressed, Stallone made the comment to her that they were both married men and that she could not tell anybody about the incident and if she did, that they would have to beat her head in.”

Case dropped

A separate report from the sexual assault unit stated the men then laughed, “and she took it as a joke also”, but after the alleged victim left the room she “became very distraught and frightened, and wasn’t sure that that threat had been a joke after all”.

It added that she said she was not physically forced to have intercourse but felt “intimidated”.

Stallone was in Las Vegas at the time making the film Over the Top. His bodyguard, Mike de Luca, was shot dead by police in California four years ago.

The allegations were previously published by the Baltimore Post-Examiner last February. Ms Bega declined to comment further when asked if Stallone was aware of them.

The Mail said retired Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department detective sergeant John Samolovitch vouched that “the copy of the police report is in fact a true copy of the original report”. The force is yet to comment.

Stallone’s denial comes in the wake of allegations made against key Hollywood figures including Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Louis CK.

Jeffrey Tambor Accused By ‘Transparent’ Actress Of Sexual Harassment; Actor Admits “Flaws,” Says “Misinterpreted”

by ,

EXCLUSIVE: Just more than a week after Amazon opened an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Jeffrey Tambor, the Transparent star today has been accused by a transgender actress on the acclaimed series of similar behavior. Tambor, who says he can at times be “volatile and ill-tempered,” denies the claims.

 Comparable to the accusations made by Tambor’s former assistant Van Barnes, Trace Lysette alleges that the actor made lewd, sexually suggestive and unwelcomed remarks to her on a number of occasions, says a statement obtained by Deadline. Tambor is also said to have physically pressed up against Lysette in a sexually aggressive manner during a break in filming, according to the actress.

In her allegations, Lysette advocates for the Jill Soloway created Transparent and Amazon to “remove the problem and let the show go on.”

“This information will be added to the ongoing investigation,” an Amazon spokesperson said today of Lysette’s accusations. No official complaint about Tambor has been made by Lysette to Amazon, Deadline also has learned.

“For the past four years, I’ve had the huge privilege — and huge responsibility – of playing Maura Pfefferman, a transgender woman, in a show that I know has had an enormous, positive impact on a community that has been too long dismissed and misunderstood,” Tambor said Thursday. “Now I find myself accused of behavior that any civilized person would condemn unreservedly.”

He added: “I know I haven’t always been the easiest person to work with. I can be volatile and ill-tempered, and too often I express my opinions harshly and without tact. But I have never been a predator – ever. I am deeply sorry if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being sexually aggressive or if I ever offended or hurt anyone. But the fact is, for all my flaws, I am not a predator and the idea that someone might see me in that way is more distressing than I can express.”

Having appeared on Starz’s now-shuttered Blunt Talk and as herself on E!’s I Am Cait with Caitlyn Jenner, Lysette has been an infrequent regular on the Jill Soloway-created series since its 2014 debut. She first appeared in the Season 1 “Wedge” episode as Shea, a transgender yoga instructor and Sherpa of sorts for Tambor’s Maura and has portrayed the character in subsequent seasons.

A prominent storyline in the Season 3 episode “The Open Road” saw Lysette’s Shea engage in a budding romance with Maura’s son, music producer Josh (Jay Duplass), while on a road trip. That Soloway-directed episode had the interaction go south quick with a cascade of insults from the younger Pfefferman when ex-sex worker Shea revealed she is HIV-positive. In the September 25-released fourth season of Transparent, Lysette showed up in Episode 5, “Born Again,” as pageant-winning drag queen Celine in an ’80s flashback scene.

With its fourth season having appeared on the streaming service earlier this fall, Transparent is presently not in production. Soloway did not respond to Deadline’s request for comment on these new allegations against Tambor. When the previous allegations were over a week ago, Soloway put out a statement saying  that she and the Transparent team “are cooperating with the investigation into this matter.”

Currently, in that vein, the Jeff Bezos company is speaking to members of theTransparent production following the first allegations against Tambor, which the Emmy-winning actor “adamantly and vehemently” denied at the time. Correspondingly, there also have been tentative discussions about writing the Maura character out of the show for the upcoming Season 5 in one way or another.

The allegations against Tambor come in the shadow of Amazon seeing a number of executives exit the streaming service led by studio boss Roy Price, who was first suspended indefinitely and then resigned on October 17 as details of sexual harassment allegations against him from 2015 were made public.

Jeffrey Tambor Accused By ‘Transparent’ Actress Of Sexual Harassment; Actor Admits “Flaws,” Says “Misinterpreted”

Weekend Fun

FRI: Willie Nelson at Horseshoe, Potter’s Guild Holiday Show at Botanic Garden (F-Sun), 67th Annual Holiday Bazaar & Fundraiser at Memphis College of Art(F and Sat), The Enchanted Forest at Pink Palace through Dec. 31, CBDB at Minglewwood, Twin Soul at Lafayette’s

SAT: Duck season is open in Arkansas, Tigers vs SMU at 11, Jason Motte Foundation Cornhole Challenge at The Columns downtown, the Soles4Soles shoe drive at American Mini Storage on Apple Tree Dr. Grizzlies vs Houston at 7, Foreigner is CANCELLED at Horseshoe, Memphis Comic and Fantasy Con at the Guesthouse at Graceland, Raindogs – a tribute to the music of Tom Waits at Music Mansion on E Pkwy, The Carpenters Remembered at BPAC, V3 Fights at Minglewood, Nick Black at Lafayette’s

SUN: Jeffery and the Pacemakers

Jerry Jones vs. Roger Goodell shows just how splintered the NFL is

The showdown between Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the league office and fellow owners over Goodell’s pending five-year contract extension has served to further splinter the sport during a tumultuous season in which divisions already were apparent.

The tangible result of the entire episode could be modest, according to several people familiar with the league’s inner workings. They say they consider it a long shot that Jones will sue the NFL and other owners over Goodell’s contract and an equally long shot that the league and owners will take meaningful disciplinary steps against Jones, the owner of a franchise estimated by Forbes to be worth more than $4 billion.

“There’s great unrest that it all went public,” said one person with knowledge of the deliberations of the owners and the league office, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the threat of litigation. The team owners “know it’s frivolous. It’s one giant bluff versus another giant bluff . . . But it has upset people, and it has united them. You put this log on what’s been a bonfire of a season. When you do that, you give people the right to say, ‘We didn’t need this.’ ”

The season has, at various times, pitted owners against players, owners against the White House, an NFL sponsor against the NFL, and owners against other owners. The one missing element has been players vs. players, although there has been an element of different groups of players having varying interests as the league and players have attempted to work through issues related to players’ protests during the national anthem and players’ community activism.

“Nothing is really going right in the NFL right now,” one outsider who deals with both the league office and the players’ side said this week.

It is a season that has included President Trump urging owners to fire players who protest during the anthem; Houston Texans owner Robert McNair enraging players by saying during an owners’ meetingthat the NFL “can’t have the inmates running the prison”; and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began the players’ protest movement last season, filing a grievance accusing teams of colluding to keep him out of the league.

There have been concerns over sagging TV viewership and there has been criticism of the quality of play on the field. There have been major injuries to star players such as Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, Odell Beckham Jr. and J.J. Watt.

And now there is Jones’s very public opposition to Goodell’s extension, which has persisted to the point that an attorney for the NFL wrote to Jones’s lawyer, David Boies, in a letter: “Your client’s antics, whatever their motivation, are damaging the League and reflect conduct detrimental to the League’s best interests.”

Jones told owners on the compensation committee, which is negotiating Goodell’s contract extension, that he’d hired Boies and was contemplating a lawsuit. In a letter written by a Cowboys attorney, Jones accused Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, the chairman of the compensation committee, of misleading owners about the negotiations with Goodell.

Jones’s aim, he and his associates have said, is to slow the negotiating process so that all owners have time to consider whether paying Goodell so handsomely is wise. Some owners have interpreted it as a move to oust Goodell in what amounts to a temper tantrum by Jones over the six-game suspension given to Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott under the personal conduct policy. Jones has said the two issues are unrelated. He has said he has the league’s best interests at heart.

“We do need to improve,” he said following a Cowboys’ victory over the Washington Redskins late last month, talking about the “challenging times” being faced by the NFL. “There’s no question about that. We need to improve throughout, every constituency in the NFL …. This could be a great occasion for us to look for accountability, get it and move forward in a very productive way.”

Joe Lockhart, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications and public affairs, declined to comment this week on how the league would react to a lawsuit by Jones. He likewise declined to comment on any potential disciplinary action against Jones. Asked what effect the episode is having on the league’s image, Lockhart said during a conference call with reporters, “I think that’s for everyone on this call to decide.”

Some owners have urged league leaders to consider penalties that could include a fine or suspension for Jones or the loss of a draft pick or picks by the Cowboys. There have been reports about the possibility of the league attempting to force Jones to sell the franchise. Jones has dismissed that scenario as laughable, and the person with knowledge of the deliberations of the owners and the league office agreed that is far-fetched.

That was confirmed by the owner of one NFL team who said Thursday the notion that the league would attempt to strip the Cowboys from Jones is “ridiculous.” The owner said Jones would be subject to paying both sides’ attorney fees, under league rules, if he files and lawsuit and might be fined if he sues.

A different person with knowledge of the league’s inner workings said: “It’s escalating threats. He hasn’t toned down his rhetoric. But there hasn’t been a lawsuit, either.”

That person said that Jones has little support from other owners if his ultimate aim is to oust Goodell, adding: “It’s a couple. The main one is Snyder,” referring to Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.

Snyder did not respond to a request for comment made through the Redskins.

Other estimates from within the league and the ownership ranks are that Jones would have a handful of votes, including his own, for a push to get rid of Goodell, and a few more for trying to force Goodell to accept significantly reduced contract terms in a move that could prompt Goodell to walk away. There could be more support, some reports have suggested, for merely attempting to slow the process, with Goodell’s current deal set to run until 2019.

But it all has been a very bad look for the NFL, most observers seem to agree. A number of owners and high-ranking executives with NFL teams said in recent weeks that things are not as splintered within the league as it appears because Jones, in their view, does not have the widespread support he has attempted to portray. But appearances matter at a time when the sport’s long run of popularity and prosperity is being threatened.

Some within the league are wondering what to make of the abrupt reversal by Papa John’s, an NFL sponsor, in apologizing for being divisive when it recently criticized the league for a lack of leadership in dealing with player protests. There have been suspicions by some within the NFL that Jones, who reportedly owns more than 100 Papa John’s franchises, influenced the company’s original statements. Could the about-face signal a cessation of hostilities? Or was it merely a business decision by the pizza maker?

The owner of another team said Thursday that the compensation committee’s deal with Goodell could be completed before or during the December owners’ meeting in Dallas and that the extension will not be subject to a further vote of all the owners, as Jones is seeking. In the meantime, the owner said, “I’m sure there will be more leaks and more letters back and forth.”

The person familiar with the owners’ and league’s deliberations said that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who once clashed with the league office over the Deflategate scandal, has tried to broker peace behind the scenes in this case. In that way, Kraft could be trying to fill the void in reining in Jones left by the death of universally respected Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney and the diminished profile in leaguewide matters of influential Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.

According to that person, Goodell’s value to the league remains high in the estimation of most owners because the NFL soon must negotiate new deals with the players’ union and the TV networks and those are Goodell’s strengths. There would be no obvious in-house candidate to succeed Goodell and to turn to an outsider at this point would be extremely risky, said that person, who described Goodell as remaining stoic during the latest crisis while trying to boost the morale of those in the league office and refraining from pushing the owners — his bosses — too hard at this point to complete the extension sooner rather than later.

“There will be a point,” that person said, “where he says, ‘Let’s wrap this up.’… I think it’s a bluff by Jerry to get a better deal [with Goodell] for the owners. But now he’s hardened all the other owners. They don’t like self-generated controversy. They don’t like to be pushed around. And they particularly don’t like to be pushed around in public.”

GOP closer to big win with House tax vote; Senate unclear

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – Republicans have stretched closer to delivering the first big legislative victory for President Donald Trump and their party, whisking a $1.5 trillion overhaul of business and personal income taxes through the House. Thorny problems await in the Senate, though.

The House passage of the bill Thursday on a mostly party-line 227-205 vote also brought nearer the biggest revamp of the U.S. tax system in three decades.

But in the Senate, a similar measure received a politically awkward verdict from nonpartisan congressional analysts showing it would eventually produce higher taxes for low- and middle-income earners but deliver deep reductions for those better off.

The Senate bill was approved late Thursday by the Finance Committee and sent to the full Senate on a party-line 14-12 vote. Like the House measure, it would slash the corporate tax rate and reduce personal income tax rates for many.

But it adds a key feature not in the House version: repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that everyone in the U.S. have health insurance. Elimination of the so-called individual mandate under the Obama health care law would add an estimated $338 billion in revenue over 10 years that the Senate tax-writers used for additional tax cuts.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has projected that repeal of the mandate would result in 13 million more uninsured people by 2027, making it a political risk for some lawmakers.

The Senate panel’s vote came at the end of four days of often fierce partisan debate. It turned angrily personal for Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, as he railed against Democrats’ accusations that the legislation was crafted to favor big corporations and the wealthy.

“I come from the poor people. And I’ve been working my whole stinking career for people who don’t have a chance,” Hatch insisted.

After the panel’s approval, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared, “For the millions of hard-working Americans who need more money in their pockets and the chance of a better future, help is on the way.”

The analysts’ problematic projections for the Senate bill came a day after Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson became the first GOP senator to state opposition to the measure, saying it didn’t cut taxes enough for millions of partnerships and corporations. With at least five other Republican senators yet to declare support, the bill’s fate is far from certain in a chamber the GOP controls by just 52-48.

Even so, Republicans are hoping to send a compromise bill for Trump to sign by Christmas.

“Now the ball is in the Senate’s court,” Vice President Mike Pence said after the House vote. Speaking at a conservative Tax Foundation dinner in Washington, Pence said, “The next few weeks are going to be vitally important and they’re going to be a challenge.”

“We’re going to get it done” before year’s end, he said.

A White House statement that “now is the time to deliver” also underscored the GOP’s effort to maintain momentum and outrace critics. Those include the AARP lobby for older people, major medical organizations, realtors – and, in all likelihood, every Senate Democrat.

Despite controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House, the Republicans are still smarting from this summer’s crash of their effort to dismantle President Barack Obama’s health care law. They see a successful tax effort as the best way to avert major losses in next year’s congressional elections. House Republicans concede they are watching the Senate warily.

“Political survival depends on us doing this,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. “One of the things that scares me a little bit is that they’re going to screw up the bill to the point we can’t pass it.”

The House plan and the Senate Finance bill would deliver the bulk of their tax reductions to businesses.

Each would cut the 35 percent corporate tax rate to 20 percent, while reducing personal rates for many taxpayers and erasing or shrinking deductions. Projected federal deficits would grow by $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

As decades of Republicans have done before them, GOP lawmakers touted their tax cuts as a boon to families across all income lines and a boost for businesses, jobs and the entire country.

“Passing this bill is the single biggest thing we can do to grow the economy, to restore opportunity and help those middle-income families who are struggling,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Ryan also said he’d seek to add tax breaks to help Puerto Rico recover from recent hurricanes to a House-Senate compromise.

Democrats said the tax measure would give outsized benefits to the wealthy and saddle millions of moderate-income Americans with tax increases. Among other things, the House legislation would reduce and ultimately repeal the tax Americans pay on the largest inheritances, while the Senate would limit that levy to fewer estates.

The bill is “pillaging the middle class to pad the pockets of the wealthiest and hand tax breaks to corporations shipping jobs out of America,” declared House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

Thirteen House Republicans – all but one from high-tax California, New York and New Jersey – voted “no” because the plan would erase tax deductions for state and local income and sales taxes and limit property tax deductions to $10,000. Defectors included House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., who said the measure would “hurt New Jersey families.”

Trump traveled to the Capitol before the vote to give House Republicans a pep talk.

Besides Johnson, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have yet to commit to backing the tax measure.

Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation estimated the Senate plan would mean higher taxes beginning in 2021 for many families earning under $30,000 annually. By 2027, families making less than $75,000 would face tax boosts while those making more would enjoy cuts.

Republicans attributed the new figures to two provisions: one ending the measure’s personal tax cuts starting in 2026 and the other abolishing the “Obamacare” requirement that people buy health coverage or pay tax penalties.

Ending the personal tax cuts for individuals in 2026, derided as a gimmick by Democrats, is designed to pare the bill’s long-term costs to the Treasury. Legislation cannot boost budget deficits after 10 years if it is to qualify for Senate procedures that bar bill-killing filibusters.

Other features:

-Both chambers’ bills would nearly double the standard deduction to around $12,000 for individuals and about $24,000 for married couples and dramatically boost the current $1,000 per-child tax credit.

-Both would erase the current $4,050 personal exemption and reduce or cancel other tax breaks. The House would limit interest deductions to future home mortgages of up to $500,000, down from today’s $1 million. The Senate would end deductions for moving expenses and tax preparation.


Ouch! Germany replaces U.S. as country with best global image

By Deutsche Welle, USA Today

Germany has replaced the United States as the country with the best “brand image,” according to a new study of 50 countries released Thursday.

The Nation Brands Index (NBI) survey by German-based market research firm GfK and the British political consultant Simon Anholt measured public opinion around the world on “the power and quality of each country’s ‘brand image.'”

Germany moved up to first place after coming in second in 2016. The U.S. dropped from top to sixth, with France, Britain, Canada and Japan taking spots two to five.

Not just a pretty car

The study calculated the final NBI score by researching how well people viewed a country across six categories: Its people, governance, exports, tourism, investment and immigration and culture and heritage.

The land of sausages, Angela Merkel and “Made in Germany” was in the top five for all but one category. Only in “tourism” did Germany fall outside the top five, coming in tenth.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel welcomed the results, saying: “Germany’s image no longer rests on our economic strength. People think we’re capable of much in the world.”

‘The Trump effect’

Foreigners’ views of the US worsened considerably compared to 2016, particularly in the category “governance,” where it slipped from spot 19 to spot 23.

The “Trump effect” explains the fall, according to Anholt.

“The loss of the U.S.’s image in the governance category is indicative of the Trump effect, which was triggered by President Trump’s policies and his ‘America First’ message,” he said.

Americans themselves nevertheless viewed their country more positively than in 2016.

France back, Britain steady

France went up three spots after coming in fifth in 2016 thanks to better scores in “governance” and “investment and immigration.”

The land of fine wine, Balzac and Voltaire came in number one for “culture.”

Britain stayed steady at spot 3, despite fears the country’s exit from the European Union (EU) would damage the country’s international image.

Tourism data provides insights for making Memphis a can’t miss destination

By Chris Luther

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) – An innovative new way to analyze and improve tourism could soon pay dividends for Memphis.

A year ago, Memphis became the first city to agree to use new phone location data from Arrivalist. The data is supposed to provide insight into visitors’ behavior that will help city leaders optimize the city.

“Tell where they’re coming from, how they’re getting here, and once they get here, where they’re going,” Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau member Kevin Kern said. “This is definitely a new tool, and it’s a groundbreaking leading edge tool for the travel and tourism industry, and we’re on the cutting edge collecting that data.”

For the first time, Memphis Tourism Think Tank members met Thursday to begin looking at the data that’s been collected.

Early results from the data show that 64 percent of visitors come to Memphis for music, and 20 percent of Memphis visitors said the delicious food is the most remarkable thing about the city.

Dallas, Chicago, and Houston are the cities where most Memphis tourist come from.

“What I think it does is take the guesswork out of where our visitors come from,” Orpheum Theatre Group President and CEO Brett Batterson said. “It also takes the guesswork out of where we’re advertising and where we’re reaching these potential visitors from out of town.”

Batterson said the data could help businesses in Memphis reach future visitors and lure them to the city.

City leaders said the Memphis Tourism Think Tank is just one of the ways tourism leaders are working together to make our city a stronger international location for people to come enjoy.

Senator Al Franken Kissed and Groped Me Without My Consent, And There’s Nothing Funny About It

By Leeann Tweeden

In December of 2006, I embarked on my ninth USO Tour to entertain our troops, my eighth to the Middle East since the 9/11 attacks. My father served in Vietnam and my then-boyfriend (and now husband, Chris) is a pilot in the Air Force, so bringing a ‘little piece of home’ to servicemembers stationed far away from their families was both my passion and my privilege.

Also on the trip were country music artists Darryl Worley, Mark Wills, Keni Thomas, and some cheerleaders from the Dallas Cowboys. The headliner was comedian and now-senator, Al Franken.

Franken had written some skits for the show and brought props and costumes to go along with them. Like many USO shows before and since, the skits were full of sexual innuendo geared toward a young, male audience.

As a TV host and sports broadcaster, as well as a model familiar to the audience from the covers of FHM, Maxim and Playboy, I was only expecting to emcee and introduce the acts, but Franken said he had written a part for me that he thought would be funny, and I agreed to play along.

When I saw the script, Franken had written a moment when his character comes at me for a ‘kiss’. I suspected what he was after, but I figured I could turn my head at the last minute, or put my hand over his mouth, to get more laughs from the crowd.

On the day of the show Franken and I were alone backstage going over our lines one last time. He said to me, “We need to rehearse the kiss.” I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, ‘Relax Al, this isn’t SNL…we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’

He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.

He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.

I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.

I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth.

I felt disgusted and violated.

Not long after, I performed the skit as written, carefully turning my head so he couldn’t kiss me on the lips.

No one saw what happened backstage. I didn’t tell the Sergeant Major of the Army, who was the sponsor of the tour. I didn’t tell our USO rep what happened.

At the time I didn’t want to cause trouble. We were in the middle of a war zone, it was the first show of our Holiday tour, I was a professional, and I could take care of myself. I told a few of the others on the tour what Franken had done and they knew how I felt about it.

I tried to let it go, but I was angry.

Other than our dialogue on stage, I never had a voluntary conversation with Al Franken again. I avoided him as much as possible and made sure I was never alone with him again for the rest of the tour.

Franken repaid me with petty insults, including drawing devil horns on at least one of the headshots I was autographing for the troops.

But he didn’t stop there.

The tour wrapped and on Christmas Eve we began the 36-hour trip home to L.A. After 2 weeks of grueling travel and performing I was exhausted. When our C-17 cargo plane took off from Afghanistan I immediately fell asleep, even though I was still wearing my flak vest and Kevlar helmet.

It wasn’t until I was back in the US and looking through the CD of photos we were given by the photographer that I saw this one:



I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep.

I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.

How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it’s funny?

I told my husband everything that happened and showed him the picture.

I wanted to shout my story to the world with a megaphone to anyone who would listen, but even as angry as I was, I was worried about the potential backlash and damage going public might have on my career as a broadcaster.

But that was then, this is now. I’m no longer afraid.

Today, I am the news anchor on McIntyre in the Morning on KABC Radio in Los Angeles. My colleagues are some of the most supportive people I’ve ever worked with in my career. Like everyone in the media, we’ve been reporting on the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations since they broke, and the flood of similar stories that have come out about others.

A few weeks ago, we had California Congresswoman Jackie Speier on the show and she told us her story of being sexually assaulted when she was a young Congressional aide. She described how a powerful man in the office where she worked ‘held her face, kissed her and stuck his tongue in her mouth.’

At that moment, I thought to myself, Al Franken did that exact same thing to me.

I had locked up those memories of helplessness and violation for a long time, but they all came rushing back to me and my hands clinched into fists like it was yesterday.

I’m still angry at what Al Franken did to me.

Every time I hear his voice or see his face, I am angry. I am angry that I did his stupid skit for the rest of that tour. I am angry that I didn’t call him out in front of everyone when I had the microphone in my hand every night after that. I wanted to. But I didn’t want to rock the boat. I was there to entertain the troops and make sure they forgot about where they were for a few hours. Someday, I thought to myself, I would tell my story.

That day is now.

Senator Franken, you wrote the script. But there’s nothing funny about sexual assault.

You wrote the scene that would include you kissing me and then relentlessly badgered me into ‘rehearsing’ the kiss with you backstage when we were alone.

You knew exactly what you were doing. You forcibly kissed me without my consent, grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later, and be ashamed.

While debating whether or not to go public, I even thought to myself, so much worse has happened to so many others, maybe my story isn’t worth telling? But my story is worth telling.

Not just because 2017 is not 2006, or because I am much more secure in my career now than I was then, and not because I’m still angry.

I’m telling my story because there may be others.

I want to have the same effect on them that Congresswoman Jackie Speier had on me. I want them, and all the other victims of sexual assault, to be able to speak out immediately, and not keep their stories –and their anger– locked up inside for years, or decades.

I want the days of silence to be over forever.

Leeann Tweeden is morning news anchor on TalkRadio 790 KABC in Los Angeles

Franken Calls for Ethics Investigation Into Himself

I don’t know what was in my head … and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse’
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2017 2:48 PM CST

(NEWSER) – Sen. Al Franken initially deflected, saying he was attempting to be funny, after being accused Thursday of groping Leeann Tweeden, a radio host who says the then-comedian grabbed her breasts during a flight home from a 2006 USO tour after forcing a kiss on her during a skit. USA Today reports Franken later issued a longer apology to “everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women.” He added: “I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself.” Franken says he’s asking for an ethics investigation into his behavior and he “will gladly cooperate.” Here’s what else you need to know:

  • Franken isn’t the only one calling for an investigation. The Hill reports Sen. Mitch McConnell is asking the Senate Ethics Committee to review the allegations. “Regardless of party, harassment and assault are completely unacceptable,” the Senate Majority Leader says.
  • The calls are also coming from inside Franken’s own party. “The behavior described is completely unacceptable,” the Kansas City Star quotes Sen. Claire McCaskill as saying. “Comedy is no excuse for inappropriate conduct, and I believe there should be an ethics investigation.”
  • And Sen. Elizabeth Warren says she’s “glad” Franken “has agreed to cooperate with an ethics investigation.” “We’re not going to fix the problems of sexual harassment and assault until men take responsibility for their actions and change their behavior,” the Hill quotes Warren as saying.
  • The Washington Post looks at what kind of repercussions Franken could face from the unlikely possibility he resigns to the even more unlikely possibility he’s expelled, which hasn’t happened in 155 years.
  • While the Post finds it unlikely, calls for Franken’s resignation are already starting, even from past supporters like Eve Peyser at Vice. “Before today, I admired Franken. I agree with him on policy. But it doesn’t matter. Politicians should be held to a high moral standard.”
  • And Mark Joseph Stern at Slate says Franken must resign to “preserve whatever moral standing” the Democrats have. “There is no rational reason to doubt the truth of Tweeden’s accusations, no legitimate defense of Franken’s actions, and no ambiguity here at all.”
  • Ezra Klein at Vox writes that sexual assault is a problem among men of all political stripes, or no political stripes at all, and while Franken should be held accountable, so too should President Trump, who “has more than a dozen-well-documented, on-the-record allegations of sexual assault against him.”
  • Meanwhile, Fox News reports Roy Moore is accusing Mitch McConnell of a double standard for only asking for an investigation into Franken while calling on Moore to drop out of his Senate race over his alleged misconduct.
  • Finally, Leeann Tweeden says she accepts Franken’s apology, doesn’t think he should resign, and isn’t calling for an investigation, according to Time. She says people make mistakes.