Eight women who worked for Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said the senator treated them with the “utmost respect" after a Los Angeles radio host accused the senator of groping her in 2006.

“Many of us spent years working for Senator Franken in Minnesota and Washington. In our time working for the senator, he treated us with the utmost respect,” the eight former staffers said in a statement. “He valued our work and our opinions and was a champion for women both in the legislation he supported and in promoting women to leadership roles in our offices.”

The statement was signed by Katherine Blauvelt, Alexandra Fetissoff, Jessi Held, Lisbeth Kaufman, Natalie Volin Lehr, Karen Saxe, Charlotte Slaiman, and Bethany Snyder.

Leeann Tweeden, a radio host and former sports commentator, said Thursday that Franken forcibly kissed her while the two were practicing for a skit during a USO tour in the Middle East in December 2006. Tweeden also said Franken groped her while she was sleeping on a flight from Afghanistan at the conclusion of the tour.

A photo shows a smiling Franken posing with his hands over Tweeden’s breasts.

The misconduct occurred before Franken was elected to the Senate in 2008.

Franken has apologized for his actions and said Thursday he welcomes an ethics investigation into his conduct.