Soros Accuses Facebook and Google of Manipulation and Deceit

Billionaire investor George Soros says social media companies, particularly Facebook and Google, are becoming “obstacles to innovation” as they have become too powerful and should be broken up.

While often playing an “innovative and liberating role,” the companies are deceiving users “by manipulating their attention” and “deliberately engineering addiction” to their services, Soros wrote on opinion website Project Syndicate.

According to him, the two firms profit from making users stay on their websites for long periods of time. Due to the size of the companies, content providers have to “accept whatever terms they are offered,”but that is only helping Facebook and Google become more profitable.

“Indeed, the exceptional profitability of these companies is largely a function of their avoiding responsibility – and payment – for the content on their platforms,” Soros wrote.

“The companies claim that they are merely distributing information. But the fact that they are near-monopoly distributors makes them public utilities and should subject them to more stringent regulation, aimed at preserving competition, innovation and fair and open access.”

Soros added that as Facebook and Google grow, they are looking to bundle more services to offer to consumers. They “exploit the data they control” and use “discriminatory pricing” to do this, he explained.

“There is a similarity between Internet platforms and gambling companies. Casinos have developed techniques to hook customers to the point that they gamble away all of their money, even money they don’t have.”

Social media companies are “inducing people to surrender their autonomy” with the power to shape people’s attention “concentrated in the hands of a few companies.”

The investor warned these “data-rich IT monopolies” could form an alliance with authoritarian states that “may well result in a web of totalitarian control the likes of which not even George Orwell could have imagined.”

He said this could happen in Russia and China first, adding that EU regulators are more “farsighted” than those in the US when it comes to social policies.

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How They Do It–NY Times Op-Ed Accuses Jewish Billionaires of Agitating for War Against Iran

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Japanese media accuses Russia of ‘meddling’ in Malaysian elections



In its latest “Asia insight” feature, Japanese news agency Nikkei speculates that Russia is “meddling” in Malaysia and other Asian countries with alleged “authoritarian streaks”.

It seems that the fake news epidemic that struck Western media during the US presidential elections and the Brexit vote has spread to Japan. Nikkei cites two instances when Russia allegedly “filled the void” left by the Western powers, which chose to reduce their engagement with countries plagued by “creeping authoritarianism”: Malaysia and Cambodia. It is curious that in Malaysia’s case, the Japanese journalists claim that Sputnik’s cooperation with the local media is basically proof of Russian meddling, hinting that Moscow is seeking to influence Malaysian internal and economic affairs.

All accusations are based on a twisted interpretation of a single diplomatic visit by a Russian deputy minister. According to Nikkei, “there are hints of Russian meddling in Malaysia, where the election is scheduled by August. Last month, the Russian deputy minister of telecom and mass communications, Alexey Volin, visited Kuala Lumpur to discuss cooperation between Sputnik, a Russian government-backed media company, and Malaysian player Bernama.”

It would be nice to know how exchanging articles and stories between two news agencies can amount to meddling, but the Nikkei analysts failed to provide any details on their accusations, only mentioning that the FBI is investigating Sputnik in order to determine whether “the Russian government’s involvement in journalism violates U.S. laws.” By the same token, the journalists crying foul over Sputnik’s alleged meddling in Malaysia should be deeply concerned by the fact that Sputnik also cooperates with one of the biggest Japanese media corporations, Kyodo News.

Sadly, it wouldn’t be surprising if Sputnik’s partners in Japan or other countries will soon be criticized as agents of Russian influence. Facts don’t matter anymore; the era of fake news is upon us. It used to be that gaining access to new sources of information was viewed as a positive development, but some Japanese journalists seem to believe that Malaysians shouldn’t have access to Sputnik’s news coverage.

Unsurprisingly, Nikkei found another country subjected to Russian influence: Cambodia, citing the presence of Russian election observers as proof. According to the Nikkei article, “Putin seems to find kindred spirits in so-called illiberal democracies”, and that is the reason for Russia’s decision to send election observers and set up a working group to negotiate the issue of Cambodian debt, left over from the Soviet days.

It is also alleged that “China and Russia do not foist demands for human rights and democracy on their partners, making them appealing benefactors for regional leaders intent on staying in power,” while cooperation with Western countries is conditional upon maintaining a functional democracy and respect for human rights. Obviously, this is false, given the West’s extensive history of cooperation with regimes characterized by blatant disregard for basic human rights. For instance, the US openly supported the Pinochet regime in Chile after the 1973 coup, despite the fact that Chilean authorities routinely executed their political opponents. A Chilean commission investigating human rights abuses concluded that over three thousand Chileans were killed or “forcibly disappeared” under Pinochet, while the total number of recognized victims of this staunch US ally is above forty thousand. President Franklin D. Roosevelt supported the Nicaraguan leader Anastasio Somoza, who had a well-deserved reputation as a brutal dictator.

Western governments have supported numerous autocratic regimes across Africa, South America and the Middle East, and continue to support undemocratic countries to this day and therefore no American or Western apologist can claim they have a moral high ground on this issue. To say that the West cares about human rights is hypocritical. Pretending that “authoritarian streaks” are the reason why countries like Cambodia or Malaysia seek to cooperate with Russia or China is disingenuous. The logical explanation is that Russia and China offer better deals and refrain from imposing a political or ideological agenda on their partners.

The authors of the hit-piece, published by Nikkei, seem to be under the impression that economic cooperation in South-East Asia is a zero-sum gain in which a Russian or Chinese gain can only come at the expense of Japanese or American interests. It doesn’t have to be this way. Accusing Russia and its media outlets, like Sputnik, of political interference is counterproductive, and may also be interpreted as a sign of petty jealousy of Russia’s diplomatic prowess.

Searching for win-win solutions that would allow everyone to benefit from multilateral economic cooperation is a better way forward. Economic cooperation without political strings attached is a prerequisite for peaceful coexistence between countries that share a complicated history and may have different opinions on a wide range of geopolitical issues. Giving up spreading fake news would be a welcome first step in this direction.

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Erdogan accuses allies of sending ‘thousands of planeloads’ and ‘truckloads of arms’ to Kurds

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Re: Israel NGO accuses UNICEF of working to blacklist Israeli army

An Israeli organisation has accused the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partner organisations of leading a campaign to include the Israeli army on the UN-blacklist of violators of children’s rights.

NGO Monitor, which analyses and reports on the output of the international NGO community from a pro-Israel perspective, said that research into UNICEF’s activities revealed that the UN organisation’s staff working in the occupied Palestinian territories have been working in cooperation with Palestinian organisations to “delegitimise Israel”.

It published its “findings” in a report entitled “UNICEF and its NGO Working Group: The Campaign to Blacklist the IDF”.

“The organisation [UNICEF] plays a leading role in a non-governmental organisation (NGO) campaign to place Israel on a UN list of grave violators of children’s’ rights, with the ultimate goal of obtaining Security Council sanctions against Israel,” it said.

Timeline: Israel’s anti-Palestinian laws since 1948

It pointed out that UNICEF’s movements were based on human rights reports on the arrest and abuse of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons, describing these reports as “distorted”.

According to the report, UNICEF has been working in partnership with Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P) and organisations that promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel like the World Council of Churches’ EAPPI programme.

“This political agenda is a primary facet of UNICEF’s activities relating to Israel, completely inconsistent with its mandate of child protection and from its guidelines for neutrality and impartiality,” the report quoted NGO legal advisor, Anne Herzberg, as saying.

“Our research shows that its actions toward Israel are radically different from other countries in the Middle East,” she said.

Timeline: International attempts to boycott BDS

UNICEF is expected to share its data it has collected grave violations against children in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory as well as 19 other conflict zones with the UN’s special representative for children and armed conflict soon. This information then will be passed onto the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

In response to the criticism, a spokesperson for UNICEF took issue with NGO Monitor’s findings, and said that UNICEF is not involved in the listing process.

UNICEF said that it does not make recommendations on countries and entities to be listed in the secretary-general’s report and it’s the secretary-general alone that makes that decision.

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Iran Accuses Foreign Enemies of Sponsoring Violent Protests—Just Like The CIA Did in 1953


Nearly 65 years after the United States Central Intelligence Agency had a crucial role in the overthrow of Iran’s government that sent the nation into chaos, Iran’s leaders are now accusing foreign enemies of fueling a string of anti-government protests.

In the last week, 21 people have died and hundreds of protesters have been arrested. As many of the protesters have openly expressed their criticism of the government, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is blaming the “enemies of Iran” for the outrage, according to a report from the Associated Press.

The start of the protests was economical in nature but has since been morphed — likely with the help of outside state actors — into a full-scale anti-government movement pushing for regime change.

Khamenei claimed that the enemies in question have been meddling with the country’s internal affairs. The comments, which were made on Khamenei’s official website, according to the report, accused the aggressors of providing money and weapons to protesters—a technique the U.S. and its allies use often.

“In the recent days’ incidents, enemies of Iran utilized various means—including money, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatuses—to create problems for the Islamic system,” Khamenei said.

While it is entirely possible that these protests are an organic uprising against the state of the economy in Iran, make no mistake that they will be used—just like the Arab Spring—to further the neoconservative agenda.

The statement comes days after President Trump praised the protests on Twitter.  Big protests in Iran,” he wrote. “The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!

It is likely that if the American people started “getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism” and protested accordingly, Trump would share a very different sentiment—but his hostility towards Iran is evident.

It should be noted that many of the problems Iran has faced over the last 65 years have come as a result of foreign meddling instigated by the CIA. The agency launched a military coup in 1953 that overthrew Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq.

The U.S. installed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi as the new monarch. His oppressive rule led to the Iranian revolution of 1978, which resulted in “a brutally repressive regime in Iran, client terrorist groups around the Middle East, savage sectarian violence in Iraq and a nuclear standoff.”

As The Free Thought Project reported, the U.S. has only recently admitted to its influence in undermining the nation’s government. The State Department released a trove of documents in June that gave insight into the CIA’s role in the coup d’état.

The documents revealed that in a March 1953 memorandum to President Eisenhower, Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles listed “the elimination of Mossadeq by assassination or otherwise,” as a method of repairing ties with Iran, restoring oil negotiations, and stopping a “Communist takeover.”

“Ever since the assassination of General Razmara in March 1951, and the subsequent impasse and diplomatic break with Britain over the oil negotiations, the Iranian situation has been slowly disintegrating. The result has been a steady decrease in the power and influence of the Western democracies and the building up of a situation where a Communist takeover is becoming more and more of a possibility. However, even the present crisis is likely to be unsatisfactorily compromised without a Communist Tudeh victory. Of course, the elimination of Mossadeq by assassination or otherwise might precipitate decisive events except in the unlikely alternative that the Shah should regain courage and decisiveness.”

Dulles also detailed the Capabilities of CIA clandestine services in Iran,” which could be used to “prevent the assumption of power by Tudeh,” Iran’s Communist party:

Mass propaganda means (press, etc.): CIA controls a network with numerous press, political, and clerical contacts which has proven itself capable of disseminating large-scale anti-Tudeh propaganda.”

Khamenei promised to elaborate further on the “enemies of Iran” he is referencing, but it is no secret that there are multiple foreign governments who would be happy to see the overthrow of President Hassan Rouhani.

Saudi Arabia has been open about its hostility towards Iran, and last month, Saudi Arabian media began promoting a video that shows a simulation of Saudi troops invading and conquering Iran. Reports claimed that the purpose of the video was to mimic the reality, the prestige of the Saudi Armed Forces, and its deterrents against foreign ambitions, especially Iranian threats.”

Israel has also been an outspoken opponent of the country, and its military began launching airstrikes on targets in Syria last month after a BBC report claimed that Iran was occupying military bases near Damascus. Leaked secret cables revealed that Israel has been working closely with Saudi Arabia to provoke war with Iran.

Haaretz reported that the United States has also been a part of the discussion, as a senior U.S. official told the publication that “a delegation led by Israel’s national security adviser met with senior American officials in the White House earlier this month for a joint discussion on strategy to counter Iran’s aggression in the Middle East.”

Iran is also notable because it was one of the seven countries listed by General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, that the U.S. planned on going to war with, according to a 2001 memo from the U.S. Secretary of Defense.

“This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years,” Clark said. “Starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and finishing off with Iran.”

To those who support the US meddling in Iran—by claiming it could somehow help their citizens—think again. All the countries on the list above have been brought to their knees by US intervention and these once semi-free democracies have been deliberately turned into breeding grounds for terrorism, human trafficking, and mass murder.

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Trump accuses China of selling oil to North Korea ignoring US sanctions


Donald Trump has accused China of exporting oil to North Korea, in contravention of UN sanctions, after a media report alleged transactions between the two countries. Beijing has denied making illegal shipments.

“Caught RED HANDED – very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!” tweeted the US president.

On Tuesday, the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo claimed US surveillance satellites spotted Chinese vessels engaged in ship-to-ship oil transfers with North Korean ships at sea, citing government sources in Seoul. At least 30 such transfers have allegedly occurred since October.

September’s United Nations Security Council Resolution 2375 imposed an import quota of 500,000 barrels of refined petrol on North Korea, for three months starting in October, as well as restrictions on crude oil transactions. Direct ship-to-ship transfers, which make it harder to account for the oil, are also banned by the UN, which imposed Resolution 2375 in response Pyongyang’s suspected nuclear test earlier that month.

On Thursday, China insisted that it was in full compliance with the resolution, as well as the new UN Security Council resolution passed last week, which places even tighter restrictions on North Korea’s energy imports.

“The situation you have mentioned absolutely does not exist,” Chinese defense ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said when questioned about the media revelations.

In fact, in recent days China has publicized its decision to entirely cut off North Korea’s oil and gas exports following its series of missile and nuclear tests, on the back of its move earlier this year to suspend import of coal from the cash-starved regime, saying that the sanctions-led tightening “reflects its views.” China’s General Administration of Customs published statistics showing that no gasoline or diesel was pumped or shipped to the southern country in either October or November.

On Friday, the South Korean authorities said they had inspected a Hong Kong-flagged vessel in late November, suspected of secretly transferring oil to a North Korean ship in international waters, Yonhap reported. The vessel, Lighthouse Winmore, reportedly transferred 600 tons of refined oil to a North Korean vessel on October 19.

Donald Trump has designated North Korea as the prime security threat to the US since his election in 2016, and last month threatened to “utterly destroy” the Asian country in response to any potential acts of aggression.



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Teen Accuses X-Men Director of Luring Him with Movie Role, Making Him a Sex Slave


As Hollywood director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who claims that he was sexually assaulted by Singer when he was a minor, another man is coming forward and accusing Singer of forcing him to be a sex slave while promising him a movie role, when he was a teenager. 

When Bret Tyler Skopek met Singer at a Halloween party in October 2013, he told Deadline that the director was dressed in a Catholic priest costume. Singer has directed movies such as Superman Returns, Valkyrie and the X-Men series. Skopek claimed that when he met Singer, he was 18 years old, and the director lured him in with talk of a role in the next X-Men movie.

However, that promise was never fulfilled, and Singer is not the only one Skopek is accusing of sexual assault. He claimed that he began receiving text messages from a middle-aged computer technician after the party, who offered to help Skopek, as he was new to Los Angeles.

Skopek described a scene to Deadline in which he came back to the technician’s apartment where other young men began arriving. The men all took the drug Molly, and Skopek said he eventually passed out, and woke up to a man raping him. That same scene played out multiple times and Skopek said he was coached by the technician on how to curry favor with these powerful men,” and he was told, “There are things that you could do to make them nuts.”

The computer technician then introduced Skopek to Singer in December 2013. He and another teenager were given drugs, and then taken to Singer’s room to have sex with him. The report from Deadline noted that the second teenager corroborated Skopek’s account of the night.

“Bryan offers to take me to breakfast and the X-Men special effects floor where they’re doing all the editing,” Skopek said, claiming he was the only one who was still at Singer’s house the next morning. “We maybe spend almost the whole day together at the studio until I take a Snapchat … Bryan gets mad at me and says he’ll have his assistant drive me home.”

Skopek claimed he then began to have a relationship with Singer, in which the two would go on dinner dates, and he began attending Singer’s sex parties, which involved as many as 10 people some nights.

The attendees were mostly young men like Skopek, who were new to Los Angeles, and hoping to make it in the entertainment industry. “The sad fact is this is how they think they have to live their lives. This is the only way to make it out there,” Skopek said.

I’ve seen wannabe YouTubers come. I’ve seen actors. I’ve seen singers. I’ve seen people like me that don’t know what they want to do,” Skopek told Deadline. “You come (to LA) with dreams of being whatever. You’re still going to be caught up into this mess.”

Skopek claimed that Singer’s influence was strong, and that he would sometimes “watch a television show, see a hot guy, and ask his friends to contact the actor—as if casting the lead for his next big-budget film production.”

“It was like, ‘Let’s get on a roll. I want this guy in my room,’” Skopek said, noting that there were times when he would catch the director referring to him as “Little Bret” in text messages sent to friends as invitations to come and have sex with Skopek at Singer’s parties.

Skopek said that all of the partying, drugs and sex hindered him from finding his “big break,” and in the spring of 2014, he began to realize that working as a cashier at Tender Greens in West Hollywood would not continue to fund his cost of living.

When he told Singer that he was thinking of leaving Los Angeles, Skopek said the director offered him money, which only increased his dependence on Singer. Skopek eventually chose to leave California, and moved to Texas to live with his father. However, he is not the only one who has accused the director of sexual assault.

Michael F. Egan III filed a lawsuit against Singer in 2014, alleging that the director drugged him, raped him, and forced him to act as a sex slave at multiple parties. Egan claimed the treatment started when was 15 years old, and continued until he was 17.

“I was raped numerous times in that house, by numerous individuals,” Egan said. “You were like a piece of meat to these people.”

Egan later dropped the lawsuit after Singer paid him $10,000—according to Skopek—and after Egan was charged with conspiracy to commit securities and wires fraud and sentenced to two years in prison in 2015.

Cesar Sanchez-Guzman became the latest man to accuse Singer of sexual assault when he filed a complaint in the Superior Court of the State of Washington this week, claiming that Singer raped him when he was 17 years old, on a yacht in 2003.

Sanchez-Guzman claimed he met Singer while attending a party on a yacht owned by Lester Waters, “a wealthy tech investor who frequently hosted parties for young gay males in the Seattle area.”

The assault happened after Singer lured Sanchez-Guzman into a bedroom, on the pretense of giving him a tour of the yacht, and then “forced him into acts of oral and anal sex,” ignoring Sanchez-Guzman’s pleas for Singer to stop.

“Later … Singer approached Cesar and told him that he was a producer in Hollywood and that he could help Cesar get into acting as long as Cesar never said anything about the incident,” according to the complaint. “He then told Cesar that no one would believe him if he ever reported the incident and that he could hire people who are capable of ruining someone’s reputation.”

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Cops Shakedown 6yo Boy With Down Syndrome After Teacher Accuses Him of Being a Terrorist

down syndromedown syndrome

Pearland, TX — Because of America’s tendency to both provoke and buy into irrational fear of Muslims, a mute six-year-old boy with Down Syndrome was accused of being a terrorist last month, prompting a police response and investigation.

“Mohammad was born with Down Syndrome chromosome 21,” said the boy’s father Maher Suleiman to FOX 26 Houston.

The small boy is unable to speak because of his intellectual difficulties and requires round the clock care.

Last month, police were called to C.J. Harris Elementary School in Pearland because a substitute teacher accused the small boy with Down Syndrome of shouting terroristic threats. He’s mute.

“It’s not true, he doesn’t speak at all,” said Maher. He also said the substitute teacher told police the boy would reportedly say “Allah” and “boom,” FOX 26 reported.

“She claimed he was a terrorist,” said Maher. “This is so stupid, it’s discrimination. Actually, it’s not implied discrimination, it’s actual discrimination.”

Rather than see the overt and irrational fear that would cause a grown woman to think a mute 6-year-old with Down Syndrome is a terrorist, police actually opened an investigation into the child. This insanity not only sparked a police investigation but also prompted Child Protective Services to get involved.

“The last three to four weeks have been the hardest of my life,” said Maher. “My wife and kids were crying a few days ago and I told them everything is fine.”

The case is now gaining the attention of local news and activists as it highlights the power of the state and media to stir up blatant ignorance and hatred toward innocent people based solely on their religious preference.

“In my opinion, based on everything I heard from the police department and speaking with the administration from the school, that this was a story piece milled together by a substitute teacher alleging this child was sexually harassing her, the teacher, and possibly being a terrorist,” said community activist Quanell X. “A 6-year-old kid.”

The Pearland Police Department told FOX 26 that their ‘investigation’ into the terrorist activities of a 6-year-old boy with Down Syndrome did not warrant further police involvement. However, the CPS feels differently and their case is still currently open.

The impact of fools spreading hate has already begun to materialize and is sending ISIS into a fury of celebration — as creating a divide between Muslims and everyone else is their stated mission.

As the Free Thought Project’s Jay Syrmopolous pointed out, if there is one thing that Islamic fundamentalists and Islamophobic fascists agree on, it’s that there should be no “gray zone;” only black and white.

The gray zone is the zone of peaceful coexistence. Eliminating the gray zone – and rendering a world as black & white as the flag of the Islamic state is the ultimate goal of fundamentalists on all sides.

In fact, a recent ISIS publication, titled Extinction of the Grayzone made clear that the strategy has been at play for over a decade.

“The grayzone is critically endangered, rather on the brink of extinction. It’s endangerment began with the blessed operation of September 11th, as these operations manifested two camps before the world for mankind to choose between, a camp of Islam… and a camp of kufr – the crusader coalition.”

These are the same sentiments expressed by George W. Bush when he infamously said,

“Either you are with us or with the terrorists.”

We are witnessing Muslims being thrown off of buses because of ignorant passengers fearing for their lives. We see physical assaults waged by fearful pawns in ISIS’s propaganda campaign against peaceful Muslims, who’ve harmed no one.

There has been an escalation of anti-Muslim attacks in the United States over the past two years as this divide grows. These attacks range from rubbing human feces and leaving pigs heads outside of mosques, to beating and even killing people for their religion.

If you are willing to harass, hurt, or kill an innocent person because of their religion, you are no better than ISIS.

You are also hurting the fight against terrorism.

According to recent polls and studies conducted in the last few years, Muslims have been crucial in helping law enforcement find terror suspects in the United States. Many have served in the military protecting the country against terrorists. And, many Muslims have been highly outspoken against terrorist organizations.

As TFTP reported, 70,000 clerics came together, representing the majority of the Muslim world and publicly denounced ISIS as a threat to humanity.

Also, a Duke University study found more terrorism suspects and perpetrators were brought to the attention of law enforcement by members of the Muslim-American community than were discovered through U.S. government investigations.

The way to truly defeat ISIS is by rendering their fear and divisive tactics impotent. The US needs to show ISIS, and those being manipulated by their tactics that tolerance and freedom are far more powerful than bigotry and hate.

Also, Americans will do well to remember how it was that ISIS came to be in the first place, and avoid future murderous blunders that will inevitably fill the ranks of extremist groups with even more susceptible victims of Western foreign policy.

You can bow down to the will of ISIS by allowing their hate-filled rhetoric and divisive tactics to cloud your mind with fear and hatred, thus leading to disabled 6-year-old boys getting accused of terrorism. Or, you can peacefully rise up and stand against those who would drive a wedge through the heart of humankind. The choice is yours.

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Franken backs ethics investigation after woman accuses him of groping her

WASHINGTON — Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., apologized to a radio anchor and model after she released a photo that appeared to show him grabbing her chest and looking toward the camera on a flight back from Afghanistan.

Leeann Tweeden wrote in a blog post Thursday that Franken “mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth” during a rehearsal for a skit the pair were performing for U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2006. Tweeden told Franken she didn’t want to rehearse the kiss, but he insisted, Tweeden wrote.

“I felt disgusted and violated,” she said.

Later, on their flight home, Franken posed for a photo of himself with his hands over Tweeden’s chest as she slept. Tweeden posted the photo on the website of KABC Radio in Los Angeles, where she now works.

“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” Franken said in a short statement Thursday morning. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

Shortly after Franken’s apology, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement he would ask the Senate Ethics Committee to look into the allegations, and several of Franken’s Democratic colleagues, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told reporters they believed there should be an investigation. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., called Franken’s behavior “unacceptable” and also backed an investigation.

Later Thursday afternoon, Franken released a longer statement apologizing for his behavior and saying he was “ashamed” and “disgusted” with himself for taking that picture.

“It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate,” Franken said. “It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture.”

He said the wave of harassment allegations over the past few months have caused him and other men to reexamine their actions that may have demeaned women, and for Franken to realize that some of the jokes he made when he was in the comedy world were not funny. He praised women for coming forward to tell their stories of harassment and said he was their “ally.”

“I have let them down, and I’m committed to making it up to them,” Franken said.

Franken called for an ethics investigation into himself and said he would cooperate.

Franken reiterated that he did not remember the unwanted kiss that Tweeden described, however.

“While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences,” Franken said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also backed an ethics investigation:

None of Franken’s colleagues on either side of the aisle have suggested that the senator should resign.

In a press conference, Tweeden said she accepted Franken’s apology and was not asking him to step down at the moment. “People make mistakes,” she said. “I’m not calling for him to step down.”

“People make mistakes. I’m not calling for him to step down. That’s not my place to say that,” Tweeden said.

Last month, Franken posted on Facebook about the allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, writing of the accusers, “it takes a lot of courage to come forward, and we owe them our thanks.”

Franken is a popular figure on the left, and his aggressive questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in appearances in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about contacts with Russia resulted in Sessions correcting his testimony. Franken has been rumored to have presidential aspirations for 2020.

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