SALT LAKE CITY — As the only woman in the Utah congressional delegation and a mother of two daughters and a son, Rep. Mia Love says it's important for her to speak out against sexual harassment.
"It has to stop," she said. "You're going to see me be a little bit more vocal about these things because I think it's something we need to make sure people say is unacceptable."
Love's comments came Thursday amid Los Angeles radio anchor Leeann Tweeden's allegation that Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., kissed her without consent and groped her during a USO tour in the Middle East in 2006. A photo shows Franken, a comedian at the time, touching her chest while she slept wearing a flak jacket on a military plane.
"I can’t tell you how incredibly sickening it is. I’m glad that people are bringing these things up," Love, R-Utah, said Thursday on KSL Newsradio's "The Doug Wright Show."
Franken is the latest politician to be accused of sexual misconduct.
Multiple women now say U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, an Alabama Republican, pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. They complained of being groped, forcibly kissed or subjected to unwanted advances.
Love also spoke out on Moore this week, saying "sexual harassment and inappropriate and unwanted sexual behavior with anyone — especially underage youth — is unacceptable. Period."
"We should fiercely oppose sexual predators, especially those that seek or hold the public’s esteem and trust," she said in a statement. "Whether it is a candidate for U.S. Senate, an actor, a movie producer or anyone with authority over others, I condemn this behavior in the strongest terms."
Prominent Republicans have called for Moore to drop out the race, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. On Thursday, McConnell urged an Ethics Committee investigation into Franken.
Moore has described the allegations against him as false.
Tweeden said Franken "mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth" during a rehearsal for the USO show.
Franken, who is calling for an ethics investigation into his own behavior, told NBC News, "I certainly don't remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't. I shouldn't have done it."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, called the news about Franken "disturbing."
"I have confidence that the coming ethics investigation will be thorough and complete, providing us the necessary direction for what should happen next for Sen. Franken," he said in a statement.
Hatch said the past several weeks have shown how prevalent sexual harassment is and how much more must be done to prevent it.
"I hope it will lead us to be more aware, more respectful and more courteous in our daily interactions," he said.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, called Franken's behavior on the USO tour "absolutely unacceptable."
Lee pulled his endorsement of Moore last week after allegations surfaced that the former judge initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32.
"Having read the detailed description of the incidents, as well as the response from Judge Moore and his campaign, I can no longer endorse his candidacy for the US Senate," he tweeted.
Hatch said Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., who lost to Moore in a primary election, would be good option for Alabama voters.
"I stand with the majority leader on this. These are serious and disturbing accusations, and while the decision is now in the hands of the people of Alabama, I believe Luther Strange is an excellent alternative," Hatch tweeted Monday.
Last Friday, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, tweeted that if the allegations against Moore are true, he should step aside. On Wednesday, he went a step further.
"Well, you know, we made that statement within a few hours of some of these … accusations, and I think that was a fair thing to say at that time. We needed to evaluate and collect more information," Stewart said on CNN.
"I think Mr. Moore should absolutely withdraw his name. I don't see a pathway forward for him to be a successful senator regardless. I think he needs to step aside."
Love said marginalizing women and treating them as sexual objects can't continue.
"We have got to make sure that we’re talking about this and do everything we can to make sure that that behavior stops," she said.
The congresswoman said she worries about her high school-age daughter graduating and going out into the world.
"I'm just afraid of what can happen to her or how people feel like they can just do whatever they want to," she said.
Love said she had her office staff, herself included, take an anti-sexual harassment course to understand what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
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