Hear 'Idaho Statesman' Columnist Dan Popkey
Sen. Larry Craig said Tuesday that he did nothing wrong and should not have pleaded guilty to a charge stemming from a June 11 lewd conduct complaint in Minneapolis.
Hear 'Roll Call' Reporter John McArdle
"I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis airport," the Idaho Republican said at a news conference with his wife by his side. "I am not gay," he said.
But Senate GOP leaders did not offer support for their colleague, and instead called for an ethics committee review. Sen. Mitch McConnell said Republican leaders are "examining other aspects of the case to see if additional action is required."
Earlier Tuesday, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics filed a complaint with the ethics committee seeking an investigation into whether Craig violated Senate rules by engaging in disorderly conduct.
Craig's problems stem from an incident in the men's restroom at the Minneapolis airport. According to court documents, airport police Sgt. Dave Karsnia was investigating allegations of sexual conduct in airport restrooms when he went into a stall and closed the door.
Minutes later, the officer saw Craig gazing into his stall through the crack between the stall door and the frame, fidgeted with his fingers and returned to gazing through the stall for about another two minutes, the documents state.
After a man in the adjacent stall flushed the toilet and 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 into the area of the officer's stall 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 palms 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 that Craig had 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.
Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper first reported the arrest and guilty plea.
In a statement issued Monday, Craig said he did nothing inappropriate.
"At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions," he said. "I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously."
Craig, who has voted against gay marriage, finds his political future in doubt in the wake of the charges, which have drawn national attention.
The conservative three-term senator, who has represented Idaho in Congress for more than a quarter-century, is up for re-election next year. He has not said whether he will run for a fourth term in 2008 and was expected to announce his plans this fall.
A political science professor in Idaho said Craig's political future was in jeopardy. And a spokesman for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, Hannah August, said Craig's guilty plea "has given Americans another reason not to vote Republican" next year.
Craig, 62, has faced rumors about his sexuality since the 1980s, but allegations that he has engaged in gay sex have never been substantiated. Craig has denied the assertions, which he calls ridiculous.
Already Craig has stepped down from a prominent role with Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. He had been one of Romney's top Senate supporters, serving as a Senate liaison for the campaign since February.
"He did not want to be a distraction and we accept his decision," said Matt Rhoades, a Romney campaign spokesman.
Craig joins other GOP senators facing ethical and legal troubles.
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) is under scrutiny for his relationship with a contractor who helped oversee a renovation project that more than doubled the size of the senator's home.
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) acknowledged that his phone number appeared in records of a Washington-area business that prosecutors have said was a front for prostitution.
Craig, a rancher and a member of the National Rifle Association, lives in Eagle, Idaho, near the capital of Boise. He was a member of the House for 10 years before winning election to the Senate in 1990. He was re-elected in 1996 and 2002.
Last fall, Craig discounted allegations from a gay-rights activist that he has had homosexual relationships.
Mike Rogers, who bills himself as a gay activist blogger, published the allegations on his Web site, www.blogactive.com, in October 2006.
The Idaho Statesman, citing an anonymous source, reported Monday night that a man with close ties to Republican officials said he had a sexual encounter with Craig in the men's room of Washington, D.C.'s Union Station, a few blocks from the Capitol. Craig denied the incident in a May interview with the newspaper, and no arrests were made.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press