BOISE, Idaho - A defiant Sen. Larry Craig (R., Idaho) yesterday denied any wrongdoing despite his guilty plea this summer in a men's-room police sting, emphatically adding: "I am not gay. I never have been gay."
The married, conservative three-term senator, 62, made his public statement less than an hour after Republican Senate leaders 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 Craig. Issued in the names of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and several others, the statement said they were examining "other aspects of the case to determine if additional action is required."
Craig, with 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 said 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 to a misdemeanor.
"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," Craig said.
He said he kept the information from his friends, family and staff. Nor did he hire a lawyer, Craig said, though 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 Craig, in a men's-room stall, 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 June 11 arrest.
Craig signed and dated his guilty plea to a disorderly-conduct charge Aug. 1, and court papers indicate it was submitted by mail and filed a week later. The court docket said he paid $575 in fines and fees and was put on unsupervised probation for a year. A 10-day sentence in the county workhouse was stayed.
Craig, who is up for reelection next year, said he would announce his plans next month. Regardless of his plans, it was clear his political standing had suffered.
He resigned Monday from a prominent role with Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Romney told CNBC's Kudlow & Company yesterday that Craig had "disappointed the American people," adding in reference to past politician sex scandals, "Yeah, I think it reminds us of Mark Foley and Bill Clinton."
Craig 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 and accused the Idaho Statesman, the state's largest newspaper, of a witch-hunt on the issue.
A private group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed a complaint with the Senate ethics committee seeking an investigation into whether Craig violated Senate rules by engaging in disorderly conduct.
The official police complaint said Minneapolis Airport Police Sgt. Dave Karsnia, investigating allegations of sexual conduct in airport restrooms, went into a stall shortly after noon June 11 and closed the door. Minutes later, Karsnia 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, dated June 25.
The complaint said Craig tapped his right foot several times and moved it closer to Karsnia's stall, then moved it to where it touched Karsnia's foot. 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, the complaint said, "at which time the defendant exclaimed 'No!' "
See video of Sen. Craig's news conference via
Sen. Johnson: 'I Am Back'
Sen. Tim Johnson (D., S.D.), speaking slowly and slurring some words more than eight months after a life-threatening brain hemorrhage, told South Dakota residents yesterday: "I am back."
Johnson, 60, in his first public appearance since falling ill, spoke to a cheering crowd
at the Sioux Falls Convention Center
after being wheeled
to the podium and rising to his feet
(see the video via http://go.philly.com/tim).
He said he was grateful for getting a second chance at life. "I will take that second chance and work harder than ever and be the very best that I can be for each and every South Dakotan," said Johnson, who
has not officially said whether he will seek reelection in 2008.
Yesterday's celebration was a carefully choreographed gathering that took on the appearance of a campaign event. He is expected to return to the Senate for votes next week, said spokeswoman Julianne Fisher. He fell ill at
the Capitol in mid-December.
- Associated Press