Idaho Sen. Larry Craig has asked his constituents to forgive him, but defended himself against a police report alleging that in June he attempted to engage in a homosexual encounter with an undercover officer in an airport men's room.
"While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis airport or anywhere else, I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away," Craig said, insisting "I am not gay."
"It's clear, though, that through my actions I have brought a cloud over Idaho. For that, I ask the people of Idaho for their forgiveness," he said.
Craig, 62, a third-term senator up for re-election next year, was flanked by his wife, Suzanne. He cast his arrest for lewd conduct as unfounded and his subsequent guilty plea to disorderly conduct as an error in judgment spurred by frustration with the state's biggest newspaper prying into his past.
The Idaho Statesman published a lengthy story Tuesday, a day after the June 11 arrest was first reported, detailing allegations of homosexual behavior by Craig. The senator denied the allegations and said the paper was engaged in a witch hunt.
Reports state that police Sgt. Dave Karsnia was investigating allegations of sexual conduct in Minneapolis airport restrooms when he went into a stall. The complaint against Craig alleged that he employed "a signal often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct."
Craig was arrested, read his rights, fingerprinted and photographed for a mug shot released by police showing him in coat and tie. He signed a guilty plea on Aug. 1 and later paid $575 in fines and fees and was placed on unsupervised probation for a year.
The Idaho Republican Party took a measured, wait-and-see stance, to the reports and Craig's apology, while Democrats remained mum, content to let Republicans sort through the fallout. The GOP's biggest names reminded voters of Craig's tenure in the Senate and his powerful seat on the Appropriations Committee.
"I would encourage all Idahoans to avoid rushing to judgment and making brash statements about a man who has dedicated his life to public service," GOP state party chairman Kirk Sullivan said in a statement.
Ignoring that plea, some conservatives and right-wing radio talk show hosts called for Craig's resignation.
Two Republicans seeking the party's presidential nomination didn't mince words. Mitt Romney, in whose campaign Craig was playing a prominent role until he quit amid the scandal, told CNBC, "He's disappointed the American people." On Jay Leno's "The Tonight Show," Sen. John McCain said, "It's disgraceful."
From NPR reports and The Associated Press