ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
The scandal over Republican Idaho Senator Larry Craig's arrest in a Minnesota men's room took a new turn today. MSNBC broadcast a copy of a police audio recording featuring the senator and the arresting officer. The tape was made immediately after Craig was detained and taken to the airport police station. And for the first time, you can hear them talking about what happened after the senator entered the bathroom.
SIEGEL: The first voice you'll here is that of Senator Craig followed by Minneapolis airport police Sergeant Dave Karsnia who made the arrest.
(Soundbite of audio recording)
Senator LARRY CRAIG (Republican, Idaho): I went in the bathroom.
Sergeant DAVE KARSNIA (Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport Police): And what did you do when you...
Sen. CRAIG: I stood beside the wall, waiting for a stall to open. I got in the stall, sat down. And I started to go to the bathroom. Did our feet come together? Apparently they did bump. Well, I don't dispute that.
SIEGEL: In the tape, Senator Craig, not only denies that he was trying to solicit sex, he also insists that he is not gay.
(Soundbite of audio recording)
Sen. CRAIG: I am not gay. I don't do these kinds of things and...
Sgt. KARSNIA: It doesn't matter. I don't care about sexual preference or anything like that. Here's your stuff back, sir.
Sen. CRAIG: Thank you.
Sgt. KARSNIA: I don't care about sexual preference (unintelligible).
Sen. CRAIG: I know you don't. You're out to enforce the law.
Sgt. KARSNIA: Right.
Sen. CRAIG: But you shouldn't be out to entrap people either.
Sgt. KARSNIA: This isn't entrapment.
Sen. CRAIG: All right.
SIEGEL: More than once, the police officer accuses Craig of lying to him.
BLOCK: The scandal continues to fuel speculation that Craig will resign. But today, one of the senator's top aide said he won't step down. Meanwhile, back home in Idaho, some people are asking why it took so long for the story to be reported.
NPR's Martin Kaste reports from Boise.
MARTIN KASTE: Mike Rogers is a blogger who makes it his business to expose what he calls the hypocrisy of closeted politicians who don't support gay rights issues.
Mr. MIKE ROGERS (Blogger): And it's not guys that I believe to be closeted. It's guys that I know to be closeted. And I think that, once again, my record has proven 100 percent right in that I reported on Larry Craig last October, and obviously, this week, was completely vindicated.
KASTE: Rogers had reported in his blog last fall that he'd interviewed men who claimed they'd had sex with Senator Craig. But the sources were anonymous and there was no corroborating evidence. Some local papers in Idaho acknowledge Rogers' allegations. But they quoted only him without verifying the story themselves. Another paper, the Spokane SpokesmanReview, ignored the story at first, but it allowed one of its reporters to write about it online. The paper then printed the allegations after all on the grounds that they were all over the blogosphere. But in the newsroom of the Idaho Statesman in Boise, the editors decided to wait. Bill Manny is the managing editor.
Mr. BILL MANNY (Managing Editor, Idaho Statesman): I don't think it met our standards for online or in print. I mean, you still have basic standards about fairness, and completeness, and credibility, and accuracy. And those don't change whether it's the Web or print.
KASTE: That said, the Statesman did launch investigation of its own. It lasted months and culminated with a tensed interview with Craig himself last spring. The paper's inquiries also generated lots of rumors online. And when it failed to publish anything, some gay bloggers accused the paper of hiding what it knew. But others now say the Statesman was right to wait.
Ms. JODY MAY-CHANG (Editor, PrideDEPOT.com): People can lose their jobs. People can get beat up. People can get ostracized. We have to be very careful about that.
KASTE: Jody May-Chang runs PrideDEPOT.com, a gay and lesbian site based in Boise. She says she was originally excited about blogger Mike Rogers' allegations. But now, she says, the Statesman's caution was justified even in the case of an allegedly closeted elected official.
Ms. MAY-CHANG: When we're in a situation where somebody is creating public policy, no holds barred, but we better have our ducks in a row, and I don't think Rogers did.
KASTE: When the news of Craig's arrest and guilty plea broke this week, the Idaho Statesman finally did print the results of its investigation. The allegations of Craig's homosexuality were still based on unnamed sources, but editor Bill Manny says he's glad the paper held them until the news of the senator's arrest came out.
Mr. MANNY: We don't know what the senator is going to do. And he certainly hasn't been taken down yet. And I wouldn't presume to say that he will be or he should be. But it is interesting that, ultimately, journalistic standards, which demand corroboration and solid information, were what allowed us to get this story in print.
KASTE: Rumors and allegations swirling around the Internet were not enough to damage the senator's reputation, it seems. Even in the age of the blogosphere, that still required more solid evidence.
Martin Kaste, NPR News, Boise.
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