In the wake of the sexual harassment allegations against Senator Al Franken, PBS has decided to cut his tribute from its upcoming special honoring David Letterman.
“PBS and WETA, the producing station, felt that the inclusion of Senator Franken in the broadcast at this time would distract from the show’s purpose as a celebration of American humor,” said PBS in a statement to Variety. “Every year, this program is edited for both length and content to keep it entertaining and focused on its intended purpose as a celebration of American humor.“
The special, which was recorded at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on October 22, features a star-studded cast of Letterman’s friends and colleagues including Jimmy Kimmel, Norm Macdonald, Steve Martin, John Mulaney, Bill Murray, Amy Schumer, Paul Shaffer, Martin Short, Eddie Vedder, Jimmie Walker, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, among others.
“The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor Salutes David Letterman” is set to premiere Monday, November 20 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS stations nationwide.
Franken was the subject of sexual harassment allegations after Los Angeles radio Leann Tweeden detailed an instance in which Franken behaved inappropriately during a rehearsal for a skit during a 2006 USO tour.
The former model said the then-comedian insisted on rehearsing a kiss from the sketch, despite Tweeden’s refusal. Tweeden said practicing the bit was unnecessary as she had planned to deny his advances on stage (“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”).
“He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable,” Tweeden wrote. “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.”
Tweeden also posted a photo of what appears to be a grinning Franken cupping Tweeden’s breasts while she’s asleep, wearing a vest and helmet. She said the photo was taken without her knowledge on the plane ride home to Los Angeles.
Franken apologized on Thursday, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stating that the Senate Ethics Committee should open an investigation into Franken, despite the fact that he was not a serving Senator at the time of the incident. Tweeden accepted Franken’s apology.