STEVE INSKEEP, host:
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The last thing Republicans needed was another scandal. That may help to explain why so few have stepped up to support their fellow their Republican Senator Larry Craig.
The senator is said to be vacationing with his family in his home state of Idaho. He has dominated the news this week after it was revealed he'd been arrested in a Minneapolis men's room. And he's received even less support from his party than some past Republicans in trouble.
Here's NPR's Brian Naylor.
BRIAN NAYLOR: Members of Congress usually go out of their way to heap praise on those they invariably refer to as distinguished colleagues. So the words they have been tossing out to describe three-term Senator Larry Craig are all the more surprising: inappropriate, unacceptable, disgraceful, conduct unbecoming a senator, said Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman.
Coleman called in earlier this week to the "Hot Talk with Scott Hennen" show on WDAY in Fargo.
Senator NORM COLEMAN (Republican, Minnesota): That is very troubling, and it casts disrepute on to the Senate as an institution. It undermines all those, by the way, who actually talk about values.
NAYLOR: Coleman is one of several congressional Republicans calling on Craig to resign.
Senator John Ensign of Nevada, who chairs the party's Senate Campaign Committee, stopped short of calling for Craig to step down. But Ensign told the AP that's what he would do.
Republican pollster Woodard says Republicans are distancing themselves from Craig with good reason.
Mr. DAVID WOODARD (Pollster): There are a lot of Republicans who are concerned that Senator Craig comes across very much as a hypocrite. And they don't want to be associated with anything close to that.
NAYLOR: That hypocrisy stems from Craig's repeated declaration during his news conference Tuesday that he is not gay after pleading guilty to a charge involving soliciting sex in a men's room. Another Republican senator who ran on a strong social values platform, Louisiana's David Vitter appeared on the call list of an alleged madam this year. And there are national political concerns for Republicans with the 2008 elections looming, says political science professor Jack Pitney of Claremont McKenna College.
Dr. JACK PITNEY (Political Science Professor, Claremont McKenna College): In 2006, some polling suggested that the corruption issue was even more important than Iraq. And they're worried about 2008 in that this isn't this only instance of scandal or corruption. You have Senator Vitter of Louisiana involved with a prostitute. You have a variety of other investigations going on of Republican's Ted Stevens of Alaska.
NAYLOR: Of course, Republicans aren't alone in facing corruption issues. Democratic Congressman William Jefferson has been indicted after federal agents found some $90,000 in his freezer. But Senate Republican leaders are clearly worried about the impact of Craig's guilty plea, asking the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate and removing Craig from his committee assignments, actions they didn't take against Vitter.
Senator DAVID VITTER (Republican, Louisiana): I want to again offer my deep, sincere apologies to all those I have let down and disappointed with these actions from my past.
NAYLOR: When Vitter apologized in July for unspecified actions, his fellow Republicans were largely silent. With Craig, it's a different story. But unlike Vitter, Craig has pleaded guilty to a crime. Another reason is what might be termed the yuck factor. Jack Pitney.
Dr. PITNEY: The circumstances just involving a public restroom, a place where children could come in, just the whole idea is uniquely repellant to a lot of Americans. So, even if they disapproved of what Senator Vitter did, they place what Senator Craig did in a whole different category.
NAYLOR: Yesterday police released an audio tape of Craig's interrogation following his arrest in June.
(Soundbite of Senator Craig's interrogation)
Senator LARRY CRAIG (Republican, Idaho): Your foot came forward mine; mine came forward yours. Was that natural? I don't know. Did we bump? Yes, I think we did. You said so. I don't disagree with that.
NAYLOR: The tape is not likely to lessen the growing Republican pressure on Craig to resign from the Senate.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capitol.
INSKEEP: You can get plenty more analysis of the political fallout here from our columns on the Web, Watching Washington and Political Junkie. They're at npr.org.
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