Nicole Lafond

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.

Articles by Nichole

A group of 36 women who worked with Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) during his tenure at “Saturday Night Live” said on Tuesday that the senator and former comedian never behaved inappropriately toward any of them.

The SNL staffers wrote in a letter that Franken’s alleged behavior toward LA radio host Leeann Tweeden in 2006 was “foolish” and “stupid,” but said they felt “compelled to stand up” for the senator because Franken never behaved that way toward any of them.

“We would like to acknowledge that not one of us ever experienced any inappropriate behavior; and mention our sincere appreciation that he treated each of us with the utmost respect and regard,” the staffers wrote.

The staffers said they wanted to “quickly and directly affirm” that they had never felt disrespected by Franken in the years they’d worked with him on the show.

“We think it was appropriate for him to apologize to Ms. Tweeden, and to the public,” the staffers wrote. “In our experience, we know Al as a devoted and dedicated family man, a wonderful comedic performer, and an honorable public servant.”

Franken worked as a writer and performer on SNL from 1975 to 1980 and 1985 to 1995, according to NBC News. He assumed office as a senator in 2009.

Two women came forward in the last week with allegations of sexual misconduct against Franken. Tweeden accused Franken of forcibly kissing her, and groping her when she was asleep, when the two were performing together on a USO tour in 2006, before Franken was elected to the Senate.

Franken apologized publicly to Tweeden in two separate statements and asked the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate the incident.

On Monday, a second woman, Lindsay Menz, came forward with allegations against Franken. Menz told CNN that Franken groped her while the two took a photo together at a state fair in 2010, after the senator took office.

Franken said he didn’t remember taking the photo, but said he felt bad that she left their interaction “feeling disrespected.”

A spokesperson for Franken on Sunday said the senator has no plans to resign.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) called the news that Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) settled a sexual misconduct complaint with a staffer in 2015 “extremely troubling” and vowed to continue reviewing House policy on sexual harassment in the workplace.

“People who work in the House deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment or discrimination,” Ryan said, outlining the recent steps the House has made to combat sexual misconduct in Congress.

Last month the Committee on House Administration reviewed its procedures related to workplace harassment and discrimination, and last week that committee issued a new policy requiring “mandatory training for all members and staff,” he said.

“Additional reforms to the system are under consideration as the committee continues its review,” he said.

Additionally, Sens. Kristen Gillabrand (D-NY) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced legislation last week that would overhaul the way Congress handles sexual harassment complaints as well as require mandatory training for everyone in Congress.

Ryan’s statement follows news first reported by BuzzFeed that Conyers paid a former staffer a $27,000 settlement two years ago after the staffer filed a complaint claiming Conyers fired her for refusing his sexual advances. Conyers also made sexual advances toward more than one female staff member and asked other women for sexual favors, according to copies of affidavits shared with BuzzFeed.

When reached for comment, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) office referred TPM to the statement she gave Buzzfeed, which said she was not aware of the settlement and that she supports efforts to make the complaint process more transparent.

“The current process includes the signing of non-disclosure agreements by the parties involved. Congresswoman Jackie Speier has introduced legislation that will provide much-needed transparency on these agreements and make other critical reforms,” Pelosi told Buzzfeed. “I strongly support her efforts.”

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The female co-hosts of “CBS This Morning” were blunt and honest Tuesday morning while reporting on the allegations against their co-host Charlie Rose, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by eight women.

“This has to end. This behavior is wrong. Period,” co-host Norah O’Donnell said during the first segment following Rose’s suspension.

The Washington Post published a scathing report on Monday evening, detailing the allegations of eight women who claimed Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them. According to the women, those advances included inappropriate phone calls, walking around naked in front of them and groping them. The alleged incidents spanned over two decades, started in the late 1990s, according to the Post.

“This is a moment that demands a frank and honest assessment about where we stand and more generally the safety of women,” O’Donnell said. “Let me be very clear: There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic and pervasive.”

Co-host Gayle King said she was still “reeling” from the news and got less than two hours of sleep the night before.

“Both my son and my daughter called me; Oprah called me and said ‘Are you okay?’ I am not okay,” she said. “I’m really struggling. …What do you say, when someone that you deeply care about has done something that’s so horrible? How do you wrap your brain around that?”

King continued saying she was “deeply rocked” by the allegations against Rose and said her colleague “doesn’t get a pass because I can’t stop thinking about the anguish of these women.”

Both King and O’Donnell said they hadn’t spoken with Rose yet, but King said she planned to later Tuesday.

Rose was officially suspended less than two hours after the Post published its piece on Monday. In announcing his suspension, a network spokesperson called the allegations “extremely disturbing” and said CBS takes them “very seriously.”

Rose himself has since “deeply” apologized for his “inappropriate behavior” and said he is “greatly embarrassed” for behaving insensitively in the past, according to a statement he published on Twitter. He said he didn’t think all the accusations were accurate and said he thought he was “pursuing shared feelings” at the time.

Rose wasn’t the only prominent member of the media who was outed for sexual misconduct on Monday. The New York Times has suspended one of its White House correspondents, Glenn Thrush, after Vox published a report detailing his alleged inappropriate sexual advances toward young female journalists in the past.

Watch the “CBS This Morning” segment below:

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Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore attempted on Monday evening to refute allegations about Moore being banned from a mall in his hometown and debunk the allegations of one of his accusers.

“On Monday evening, the Moore Campaign unveiled statements from key witnesses that completely bust the story of Beverly Nelson and Gloria Allred and further reveal an unconscionable bias on the part of state and national press to hide the truth from Alabama voters who will undoubtedly see through the ‘fake news’ and elect Judge Moore for the man that they have always known him to be,” one of the statements said, referencing Nelson’s accusations that surround her encounter with Moore at the Olde Hickory House restaurant. The second statement about the mall also attacked the media.

Nelson came forward with her attorney Allred last week after The Washington Post first reported that Moore allegedly pursued relationships or made unwanted sexual advances toward multiple women when they were teens and Moore was in his 30s.

Nelson said Moore allegedly offered her a ride home from the Olde Hickory House restaurant where she worked when she was 16. He then allegedly parked his car near dumpsters behind the building and attempted to force her to have sex with him, she said. Nelson has also gone public with her high school yearbook, which she claims Moore signed.

Moore has vehemently denied all the accusations against him and his campaign’s main line of defense has been questioning the legitimacy of the signature in Nelson’s yearbook. In Monday evening’s statements, the campaign quoted multiple witnesses who worked at Olde Hickory House, attempting to poke holes in Nelson’s account of the incident.

A former waitress said the restaurant didn’t hire anyone under the age of 16, but Nelson said she was 15 when she started. Two former employees questioned the location of the dumpster, saying it was on the side of the building, not the back. A few of Moore’s witnesses said there wasn’t an entrance to the building from the back of the parking lot and another former employee said the restaurant never closed before 11 p.m., which they said contradicts Nelson’s claims that the restaurant closed at 10 p.m. the night of the alleged assault.

The campaign also claimed that these witness accounts had been shared with multiple news outlets, but “the outlets have failed to report.”

The second statement included quotes from three former employees of Gadsden mall, one of whom oversaw mall security, attempting to discredit reports that Moore was banned from the mall because of his alleged behavior toward teenage girls.

One witness, Johnnie V. Sanders, who the Moore campaign said was an employee of Gadsden Mall from the late 1970s to the mid-2000s, said there was a different “prominent” man who was banned from the mall for similar reasons and said he may have been confused with Moore.

“There was a prominent man of Etowah County, whom is now deceased that was banned for reasons such as the allegations against Judge Moore. However, due to respect for the family, I decline to reveal his name,” Sanders said in the statement. “Despite allegations against other patrons of the mall, I never heard of Roy Moore’s name come in conversation with any such misconduct against women or a supposed banning from the Gadsden Mall.”

Moore campaign strategist Brett Doster said the campaign put out the statements to combat the “one-sided reporting” on the accusations against the former judge.

“The people of Alabama are tired of false accusations and one-sided reporting from the liberal media,” Doster said in the statement. “Truth matters or it doesn’t and the Moore Campaign will deliver the truth about the character of Judge Roy Moore to affirm what the people of Alabama are already convinced of.”

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Calling Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore “a terrible nominee” for the GOP, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said if Moore is blocked from a mall in his hometown, he probably doesn’t belong in Congress.

“It seems clear to me that Roy Moore had a problem for a very long time when it came to young girls, to the point that he was put on a watch list at the mall when he was in his 30s, for pursuing teenage girls at the mall,” Graham said Monday on Fox News Radio’s “The Brian Kilmeade Show.” “If you can’t go to a mall in Alabama, maybe you shouldn’t go to the Senate.”

Graham is one of many senior Republicans calling on Moore to step aside from the Alabama Senate race after allegations surfaced that Moore pursued relationships or made unwanted sexual advances toward teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Multiple women have come forward with similar accusations, including one who said she was just 14-years-old when Moore allegedly made unwanted advances toward her. The Washington Post first reported on the allegations. More reports surfaced after the Post’s with additional accusers. Other reports claimed that Moore was banned from the local mall.

Moore has denied all of the allegations, claiming he doesn’t know the women who have come forward and saying it’s all a political attack on him from the media. He’s refused to drop out of the race.

“After you add all this up, it’s pretty clear to me that I believe the accusers here. Because somebody says something in large numbers doesn’t make me believe them, it’s just putting the puzzle together,” Graham said. “I just think Roy Moore is going to probably lose this seat, which will make it really hard for us to do health care and anything else President Trump wants to do and almost any Republican in Alabama could win this seat.”

Graham called the seat – currently held by Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), who was appointed after former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was confirmed as attorney general – “almost impossible” for a Republican to lose. Moore won the Republican primary election against Strange during a special runoff election.

“If we had a contest, design a system that would make us lose Alabama, we would win a prize for what we have today,” he said. “How effective can you be coming into the Senate with this hanging onto you?”

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Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) tribute to David Letterman will be cut from Monday night’s PBS special honoring the longtime comedian, according to a PBS spokesperson, who said including Franken would be a distraction in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against the senator.

“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,” a PBS spokesperson told Variety in a statement Monday. “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 PBS special was recorded in October and will feature a variety of A-list comedians, like Jimmy Kimmel, Bill Murray, Amy Schumer and Martin Short. The show will be broadcast Monday night at 8 p.m EST, without Franken, who was a comedian before he became a senator.

Two women have come forward with different allegations of sexual misconduct by Franken. Last week, LA radio host Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of “aggressively” kissing her and groping her while she was sleeping back in 2006 when the two were performing in a USO tour together. She published a photo with her account of the accusations, which appears to show Franken grabbing toward her chest. Franken apologized in two separate statements and asked for the Senate Ethics Committee to probe the incident.

A second woman came forward on Monday, telling CNN that Franken allegedly grabbed her rear while the two posed for a photo together at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. In a statement, Franken — who has been outspoken about combatting violence and harassment against women as a senator — said he was sorry the woman, Lindsay Menz, felt “disrespected” by their encounter, but said he didn’t remember taking the photo.

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Rob Goldstone, the British publicist who helped arrange a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., a Kremlin-linked lawyer and several key members of President Donald Trump’s campaign in June 2016, said he is ready and willing to talk to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 election.

During an interview with The Sunday Times, Goldstone said he used “hot-button language” when he wrote an email to Trump Jr. last year describing the nature of a proposed meeting with a Russian lawyer and promising incriminating information about then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, according to CNN. He said he would voluntarily talk to Mueller in order to set the record straight.

“I’m keen to talk to them and put my recollection of events in the public record,” he said. “After the story initially broke, it seemed to quieten down for a while. But now it’s back in the news with such force, I feel it’s time for me to explain what happened.”

Mueller has been in conversations with Goldson’s lawyers about having him come to the U.S. for an interview, but no date has been set, CNN reported last week.

Goldstone’s emails to Trump Jr. in June 2016 flung the gates of Mueller’s investigation wide open as he, as well as Congressional committees, looked into Russian meddling and whether the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the election. In the email exchange, which Trump Jr. posted on Twitter this past summer, Goldstone offered the President’s son a meeting with a “Russian attorney” who had “incriminating” information about Clinton that was being offered as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Goldstone said he used “puffed up” language to try to get Trump Jr. to agree to the meeting and said he wrote the email in “three minutes. I never thought it would be read by the world.”

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Leigh Corfman, one of the first women to go public with allegations of sexual misconduct against Alabama Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore, said her decision to come forward was not politically motivated.

She’s voted as a Republican for “years and years and years,” she said Monday during an interview with NBC’s “Today” show.

“But this isn’t political for me. This is personal. It’s very close to my heart and I’ve lived with this for a very long time,” she said, speaking publicly for the first time since The Washington Post detailed the incidents surrounding the inappropriate sexual encounters Moore allegedly pursued with her when she was just 14-years-old and the former judge was in his 30s. Multiple women have come forward since the story broke Nov. 9 and Moore has denied all the allegations, calling it a political attack from the media.

Many of Moore’s supporters have argued that if Corfman and the other women were telling the truth, they would’ve come out earlier in Moore’s political career.

Corfman said she weighed coming forward for years during his various campaigns, but decided against it because she was a single mother with young children.

“When you’re in that situation, you do everything you can to protect your own,” she said Monday. “I sat in the Courthouse a lot thinking ‘I’m going to go in, I’m going to confront him.’ This was 2000, 2001, and I wanted to walk into his office and say, ‘Hey remember me? You need to knock this stuff off. I need to go public.’ My children were small so I didn’t do it.”

She said the second time she contemplated coming forward with her allegations her children were older and she asked them to make the decision. Her kids were afraid of the social repercussions of their mother coming forward, so they decided not to do it at the time, she said.

“So when The Washington Post sought me out, I didn’t go looking for this, this fell in my lap. It literally fell in my lap and I had to make a decision,” she said. “I told them at that time, the reporters, they were all just wonderful to me, that if they found additional people that I would tell my story.”

Moore and his wife, Kayla Moore, have also floated accusations that the women who came forward were paid by the Post to make up their stories, which Corfman strongly refuted.

“Absolutely not, absolutely not. If anything, this has cost me. I’ve had to take leave from my job,” she said.

When asked by “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie what she makes of Moore’s defense that he doesn’t know who she is, Corfman responded chillingly.

“I wonder how many mes he doesn’t know,” she said.

Watch the full interview below:

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Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said he is a fan of the Republican tax bill that’s currently moving its way through the Senate, but he thinks his party leaders are exaggerating its importance to 2018 reelections for members of his party.

“To pretend this tax bill is world-changing is the way politicians in Washington, D.C. regularly pretend that every bill being debated is the thing that will usher in heaven,” he said to reporters after speaking to a group of 500 evangelical conservatives Saturday, the Associated Press reported.

Republicans passed the $1.5 trillion bill through the House last week, but it has been met with some tension in the Senate. Senate Republican leaders hope to tack on a provision to its version of the tax plan that would repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate, but some key Republicans, like Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), have already expressed concern over including that in the Senate bill.

Regardless of whether Republicans are able to drum up the votes they need to pass some type of major tax legislation – the party has failed to pass major legislation since President Donald Trump was elected, like not being able to repeal and replace Obamacare – Sasse wouldn’t equate tax reform to immediate reelection for Republicans. A bigger threat to the party are the efforts by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who is challenging nearly all Republican senators seeking reelection in 2018, Sasse said.

Bannon “is trying to run to the front of the parade” of conservatives’ frustration with the Republican establishment, he said, according to AP. “The party I’m in is going through a split between two sides. … The really, really important debates of our time, the really big things we need to do, really can’t be reduced to a political spectrum of right versus left.”

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The people of Alabama understand the “battle” former Judge Roy Moore is facing in his Senate bid, according to Kayla Moore, the wife of embattled Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Kayla Moore spoke as the headliner at a press conference with his supporters Friday from the steps of Alabama’s state capitol, in an effort to stand by Roy Moore and attack the people who apparently seek to destroy his shot at the U.S. Senate.

The “liberal press” — specifically The Washington Post — supporters of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Roy Moore’s opponent Doug Jones and the Washington Republican establishment were among the culprits waging a war against her husband, Kayla Moore said. She thanked all of Roy Moore’s supporters for their “prayers,” messages and phone calls since the Post first reported on the allegations of multiple women who claim Roy Moore pursued relationships or unwanted sexual contact with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.

“We are in a battle. … The people of Alabama know him. They have seen what he has done, fighting for life, fighting against abortion and fighting for the acknowledgement of God. Fighting for traditional marriage and fighting for the Second Amendment and our rights, given by God, protected by our Constitution,” she said in remarks that were consistently interrupted by cheers from the crowd gathered.

“So the liberal press, The Washington Post, who endorse Hillary Clinton and also endorsed our opponent, gets involved in the race along with the human rights campaign, the DNC and the Washington establishment,” she said. “All of the very same people who were attacking President Trump are also attacking us. I personally think he owes us a thank you.”

She claimed the Post had called “everybody I have ever known for the last 40 years” and said the publication prints “whatever anyone says” without fact-checking claims.

In its initial story about the allegations against Roy Moore, the Post reporters said they first started pursuing the story when they heard multiple rumors about the misconduct while working on a different story in Alabama. The Post was able to corroborate every account from the women with additional witnesses, including some of the women’s mothers and friends who knew about the alleged incidents when they first happened.

Both Roy and Kayla Moore have repeatedly denied all the allegations against Roy Moore and have called out one woman who claimed the former judge sexually assaulted her and signed her yearbook when she was in high school. Roy Moore’s attorney has asked for the yearbook to be turned over to a third party to examine whether the signature is real, which has been the campaign’s main line of defense against the reports.

Kayla Moore has been publicly attacking The Washington Post for the past week. On Wednesday, she posted the name and phone number of a Post reporter who had been calling friends of the Moore family, claiming the paper was on a witch hunt against them. She’s since edited the post to remove the reporter’s name and number, but added a link that lets people report “inappropriate news organization contact” on the campaign website. The family has also threatened to sue the Post and a local news outlet,

Kayla Moore ended the press conference, which featured testimony from multiple women, defending her husband’s credentials and his history of being a “gentleman.”

“I have been married to my husband for over 32 years. He was a graduate of West Point and served our country in Vietnam and has always been an officer and a gentleman,” she said. “He is a loving father and a grandfather. Most important, he is a Christian. So let me set the record straight … He will not step down.”

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