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US senator Al Franken vows to regain trust after 'harassment' claims

US senator Al Franken has apologised to voters, aides and "everyone who has counted on me to be a champion for women" as the Democrat fought to bolster his support with his first Capitol public appearance since being drawn into a wave of sexual harassment accusations buffeting Congress.

Mr Franken, who represents Minnesota, spoke as politicians began returning from an extraordinary Thanksgiving break that saw sexually tinged problems engulf two other legislators as well: Reps. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, and Joe Barton, a Texas Republican.

Those revelations were on top of allegations that Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl and sought romantic relationships with other teenagers when he was in his 30s four decades ago, which he has denied.

With harassment charges recently bringing down big names in the worlds of entertainment and journalism, Congress was adding widespread complaints about how it handles such incidents to its pile of year-end work.

In a brief appearance before reporters, Mr Franken stopped short of specifying how his memory differs from four women's accounts of separate incidents in which he allegedly initiated improper sexual contact.

He said he recalls "differently" one woman's allegation that he forcibly kissed her but provided no detail, and said he does not remember three other times women assert he grabbed their buttocks, citing "tens of thousands" of people he meets annually.

"But I feel that you have to respect, you know, women's experience," he said.

Mr Franken said he will cooperate with an Ethics Committee investigation of his behaviour.

He said it will take "a long time for me to regain people's trust" and said he hoped to begin that process by returning to work.

"I want to be someone who adds something to this conversation," said Mr Franken, a longtime liberal.

AP

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