ALEX COHEN, host:
From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Cohen.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
I'm Alex Chadwick.
Coming up, a South Dakota senator makes a re-appearance after a long absence.
COHEN: But first, a conservative senator from Idaho, Larry Craig, has pleaded guilty to charges of disorderly conduct in Minnesota this month. He was arrested in a men's restroom during an investigation into lewd conduct at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport.
For more details on this story, we go to John McArdle of the newspaper Roll Call. Welcome to the program.
Mr. JOHN McARDLE (Roll Call): How are you doing?
COHEN: Good. And so, John, lewd conduct, that could mean all sorts of things. Can you explain what exactly the senator allegedly did that led to his arrest?
Mr. McARDLE: Well it's not alleged anymore. He pled guilty to disorderly conduct. Actually, when the arrest report was written up, what he originally put in that report, in that complaint that was filed by the Minneapolis St. Paul Police Department, was disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, and a gross misdemeanor for interference with privacy. But on August 8, when he went to Hennepin County District Court, the charge that he pleaded guilty to was disorderly conduct.
COHEN: But what exactly was he doing? I mean, I think there're still a lot of people who have no clue what exactly he was doing or trying to do or maybe doing, if you read between the lines, in that bathroom?
Mr. McARDLE: Right. He says the incident report that was written up by the officer at that time was misconstrued. But we were able to obtain a copy of the police report and what it said is an undercover police officer with the airport had received numerous complaints about this particular bathroom as being a place where people meet up for these sort of lewd acts, sexual activity in this bathroom. And actually a number of folks had been busted in this bathroom leading up to this specific incident, so it was sort of a sting operation that was on-going.
The undercover officer goes in at about noon, about 13 minutes later a elderly gray-haired man starts peeking through the stall in which the officer was sitting in, stands there for about one or two minutes peeking in, looking in, gets in to the stall next to the police officer, puts his bags at the front of the stall, which the police officer says in his report in my experience has shown individuals engaging in lewd conduct use their bags to block the view from the front of their stall.
So he sits down, he tapped his toes several times and moved his foot close to my foot. I move my foot up and down slowly, eventually reached his hand under the stall, running it back and forth, so much so that the officer can see the ring on his left ring finger.
COHEN: Because he is married.
Mr. McARDLE: Right. The officer at that point decided he had enough to arrest the man who turned out to be Larry Craig.
COHEN: Now, Senator Craig has pled guilty but it doesn't sound exactly like he's been accepting full responsibility. What's his response been so far?
Mr. McARDLE: He says he was just a commuter using the bathroom at the airport. He said he was waiting outside the stall just for one to open up. He wasn't looking in. That he has a wide stance when he goes to the bathroom and that's why his foot may have touched the undercover officer's foot. So he says this was all misconstrued. In a statement he released yesterday he said at the time the incident I complained to the police that they are misconstruing my actions. I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct.
But interesting, although the police document showed that Craig returned to the airport 11 days after the incident to inquire about a police contact, so his lawyers could speak to someone, he said in his statement last night, quote, I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight I should have not pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously.
COHEN: Let's step away from the bathroom, so to speak, for a moment here. Can you tell us a bit about Senator Craig's voting record when it comes to issues affecting gays and lesbians?
Mr. McARDLE: Yeah, he is a social conservative. Back in 108th Congress he voted yes to ban same sex marriage. So he does have a history as a social conservative.
COHEN: What will happen now to Senator Craig? He's pled guilty. Will he go to jail?
Mr. McARDLE: No. I mean, as far as the legal system is concerned, the matter is closed. He pleaded guilty. He paid a little bit over $500 in fines and fees. A 10-day jail sentence was actually stayed and he was given a year of probation.
COHEN: And he was working for Mitt Romney on his political campaign and recently stepped down, correct?
Mr. McARDLE: Right. He resigned last night as the Idaho chairman of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.
COHEN: And what is his outlook look like in his home state of Idaho?
Mr. McARDLE: He's up to re-election in '08. He hasn't announced yet what he's going to do. There is a Democrat ready to run in that race. And actually the Republican lieutenant governor of Idaho has said that he'll run if Craig doesn't run.
COHEN: John McArdle writes for Roll Call. Thank you so much for talking with us.
Mr. McARDLE: Thanks so much.