Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Another Sexual Scandal for the Republican Party. Mr. Craig Says 'I Am Not Gay,' Did No Wrong. The actions speaking by it self. I have brought a cloud over Idaho. What do you think about that?.
BOISE, Idaho - A defiant Sen. Larry Craig denied any wrongdoing Tuesday despite his guilty plea this summer in a men's room police sting, emphatically adding, "I am not gay. I never have been gay."
Craig, a third-term senator from Idaho, proclaimed his innocence as well as his sexuality less than an hour after Senate leaders from his own Republican Party called for an ethics committee review of his case.
"This is a serious matter," they said in Washington in a written statement that offered neither support nor criticism of the conservative senator. Issued in the names of Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the party leader, and several others, the statement said they were examining "other aspects of the case to determine if additional action is required."
Craig, his wife, Suzanne, at his side, took no questions in a brief appearance in the capital city of the state he has represented in Congress for more than two decades in the House and then the Senate.
He had "overreacted and made a poor decision" when he was apprehended by an undercover police officer in a men's room at the Minneapolis airport and later pleaded guilty.
"While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct in the Minneapolis Airport or anywhere else, I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away." He said he kept the information from his friends, family and staff, adding, "I wasn't eager to share this failure but I should have anyway because I am not gay."
Nor did he hire a lawyer, Craig said, although he now has retained counsel "to review the matter and advise me on how to proceed."
"I have brought a cloud over Idaho and for that I seek and ask the people of Idaho to forgive me," he said.
His account contrasted sharply with the complaint in the case, in which an undercover officer said that Craig, while occupying a stall in the men's room, engaged in actions "often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct."
Craig was read his rights, fingerprinted and required to submit to a mug shot at the time of his arrest.
Police notes also show that on June 22, 11 days after the arrest, Craig returned to the police station and said no one had yet contacted him about his case. "Craig told me that he needs a contact so his lawyer can speak to someone," wrote the officer who spoke with the senator, Adam Snedker.
The senator signed and dated his guilty plea to a charge of disorderly conduct on Aug. 1, and court papers indicate it was submitted by mail and filed a week later. The court docket said Craig paid $575 in fines and fees and was put on unsupervised probation for a year. A sentence of 10 days in the county workhouse was stayed.
Craig, up for re-election next year, said he would announce his plans next month. If anything, he sounded like a man inclined to seek six more years in the Senate.
"Over the years, I have accomplished a lot for Idaho, and I hope Idahoans will allow me to continue to do that," he said.
Still, there already was speculation about a successor in the reliably Republican state. The Club for Growth, an anti-tax organization, issued a statement critical of Rep. Mike Simpson, whose name has been mentioned as a potential replacement candidate.
Regardless of Craig's plans, it was clear his political standing had suffered.
On Monday, he resigned from a prominent role with Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, and the GOP White House hopeful was critical in an interview.
"He's disappointed the American people," Romney said on CNBC's "Kudlow & Company."
"Yeah, I think it reminds us of Mark Foley and Bill Clinton," he added. Foley was a a Florida congressman who sent salacious e-mails to underage male House pages. Clinton, the former president, was impeached by the House and acquitted in the Senate after his dalliance with a White House intern.
The official police complaint on Craig's case was detailed.
It said airport police Sgt. Dave Karsnia, who was investigating allegations of sexual conduct in airport restrooms, went into a stall shortly after noon on June 11 and closed the door.
Minutes later, the officer said he saw Craig gazing into his stall through the crack between the door and the frame.
After a man in the adjacent stall left, Craig entered it and put his roller bag against the front of the stall door, "which Sgt. Karsnia's experience has indicated is used to attempt to conceal sexual conduct by blocking the view from the front of the stall," said the complaint, which was dated June 25.
The complaint said Craig then tapped his right foot several times and moved it closer to Karsnia's stall and then moved it to where it touched Karsnia's foot. Karsnia recognized that "as a signal often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct," the complaint said.
Craig then passed his left hand under the stall divider into Karsnia's stall with his palm up and guided it along the divider toward the front of the stall three times, the complaint said.
The officer then showed his police identification under the divider and pointed toward the exit "at which time the defendant exclaimed `No!'" the complaint said.
The Aug. 8 police report says Craig handed the arresting officer a business card that identified him as a member of the Senate.
"What do you think about that?" Craig is alleged to have said, according to the report.
Craig, 62, has faced rumors about his sexuality since the 1980s, but allegations that he had engaged in gay sex have never been substantiated. He has denied the assertions
Trying to put his actions "in context," Craig lashed out at the Idaho Statesman, the state's largest newspaper, accusing it of a witch hunt on the issue.
In their statement, the GOP Senate leaders did not say what other actions they were considering in connection with Craig.
Separately, a private group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed a complaint with the ethics committee seeking an investigation into whether Craig violated Senate rules by engaging in disorderly conduct.