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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
August 31, 2007

Craig admits restroom toe-tapping (But he’s not gay)

Washington, D.C.--A senator with a solid anti-gay voting record pleaded guilty on August 8 to cruising for sex in a men’s restroom, then later denied being gay.

Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho entered his plea on a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, stemming from a June arrest for allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover officer in the stall next to his.

The incident was revealed by an August 27 story in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. The next day, Craig called a press conference where he said he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge to “make it go away,” and now regrets it.

He denied seeking sex, ever having engaged in gay sex, or being gay.

“Let me be clear: I am not gay and never have been,” Craig said.

He said he made a mistake by not consulting a lawyer when he pleaded guilty, but “I have now retained counsel and I am asking my counsel to review this matter and to advise me on how to proceed.”

He seemed to blame the incident on a daily newspaper in his home state.

"For a moment, I want to put my state of mind into context on June 11,” Craig said. “For eight months leading up to June, my family and I had been relentlessly and viciously harassed by the Idaho Statesman. If you've seen today's paper, you know why.

The Statesman launched an investigation last winter into reports of Craig’s extramarital activities in public restrooms, but nothing they found was conclusive enough to print--until word of the arrest got out. Then it all appeared in a large story that morning.

The paper began their investigation after blogger Mike Rogers outed Craig on his web site blogactive.com last October. He interviewed a number of men who claimed to have had assignations with Craig in the restrooms at Union Station, just a few blocks from his Senate office in Washington, D.C.

The Statesman spoke with some of these men and also with Craig, who made about a dozen denials that he ever was gay, ever solicited gay sex, or ever had gay sex.

His wife, whom he inexplicably brought to the interview, said, “I’m incensed that you would even consider such a piece of trash as a credible source,” after the reporter played a tape of an anonymous source the newspaper interviewed. Craig accused the man of being a gay activist.

Craig has long been the subject of rumors, dating back to a 1982 scandal in which two male congressional pages said that they had sex with members of Congress or had been solicited by them.

Although he was not mentioned by either page, Craig quickly released a statement saying that he wasn’t involved with them and was not gay. He thus made himself the only member of Congress to go on record in the short-lived affair.

It was later revealed that one page had lied about the sex and the other may have misinterpreted statements as sexual advances.

Waited for the stall next to him

Craig, was in a restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport at about noon on June 11 when, according to the arrest report, he appeared to “look through the crack between the stall door and its frame into the stall that Sergeant [David] Karsnia was occupying.”

Karsnia’s report says that there were open stalls in the restroom, but that Craig, who continued to look through the crack enough times that the plainclothes officer could see the color of his eyes, waited until another man left the stall next to Karsnia’s.

According to the officer, Craig then took over the now-vacated stall, placing his bag behind the door “which Sergeant Karsnia’s experience has indicated is used to attempt to conceal sexual conduct by blocking the view from the front of the stall.”

Craig then tapped his foot.

“Tapping of the foot is pretty standard for men who cruise in toilets,” Keith Griffith, webmaster of CruisingForSex.com, told ABC News. “They will usually go to stall at the far end of the strip of toilets. They will see each other and usually decide to go someplace else. The vast majority have no interest in being seen. They may be meeting in public locations, but they will be as discreet as possible.”

The police report continues: “Sergeant Karsnia then observed the defendant swipe his hand under the stall divider for a few seconds, swiping from the front of the stall back towards the back wall, which was done with the defendant’s hand palm-up and guiding it along the stall divider.”

The hand gesture is regarded as an invitation to kneel on the floor while putting one’s genitalia under the partition to be fondled or fellated.

Karsnia then flashed his badge under the stall divider and motioned for the senator to head for the exit. According to the police report, Craig shouted “No!” before the officer again pointed to the exit and escorted him out.

‘Infuriating pathetic hypocrites’

Craig’s scandal follows a series of others involving public figures, including Rev. Ted Haggard, who resigned from his megachurch pulpit last fall after a male prostitute revealed his three-year client relationship, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, whose phone number was found on the list of the “D.C. Madam,” and Mark Foley of Florida, who left the House last year after exchanging sexually explicit e-mails with young male pages.

The situation engendered mixed emotions in LGBT advocates, who were amused at the notably anti-gay senator’s embarrassment but also troubled by the nature of his alleged crime--tapping his foot and gesturing with his hand, as opposed to anything concretely sexual or lewd.

Craig scored a zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s congressional scorecard. He supported the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have barred states from allowing same-sex marriage. He claimed to support civil unions, while believing marriage should be reserved for opposite-sex couples, but then said he would vote in favor of Idaho’s ban amendment which bars civil unions as well as same-sex marriage.

“What’s up with elected officials like Senator Craig?” asked National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Matt Foreman. “They stand for so-called ‘family values’ and fight basic protections for gay people while furtively seeking other men for sex. Infuriating pathetic hypocrites. What more can you say?”

“And by the way, why are Minneapolis tax dollars being used to have plainclothes police officers lurking idly in airport restroom stalls?” he asked.

Calls have begun for his resignation from LGBT people within his own party.

“Senator Larry Craig’s ability to continue serving the people of Idaho is in serious doubt,” said Log Cabin Republicans president Patrick Sammon. “He has violated the public trust, not just with his inappropriate and illegal behavior, but in the subsequent explanation of his actions.”

“Innocent people don’t plead guilty,” he continued. “The time to contest these allegations would’ve been before his guilty plea.”

Craig, a three-term senator, is up for re-election next year. He said at the August 28 conference that he would announce his decision on whether or not to seek it next month.

 

 

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