New Allegations Test Craig's New Boldness
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
On Labor Day weekend, Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) told the nation he would resign within weeks because of the uproar over his arrest in a sex sting in an airport men's room. To stay and fight, Craig said in a news conference carried live by cable news channels, would be "an unwanted and unfair distraction" from his work as a senator and his responsibilities to his colleagues.
Today, three months later, Craig returns to Congress in the wake of the most lurid allegations about his conduct to date, vowing yet again to finish out his term, having long since abandoned his promise to step down quietly for the good of his constituents and his party.
Far from hiding in disgrace, Craig carries on with his odd new normal: After dodging television cameras in the early days of the scandal, he now quietly attends political fundraisers, meets with Cabinet nominees and attends to constituents.
Craig will, in fact, end his week on Capitol Hill on Thursday by casting his secret ballot in GOP caucus leadership elections -- contests that can be decided by a single vote -- then take off on a military jet to Bali, Indonesia, at taxpayer expense, part of a congressional delegation to a United Nations summit on global warming.
This stay-the-course approach comes as Craig battles detailed allegations of homosexual acts that conflict with his adamant statement that he is "not gay," made in August after news broke of his arrest in a sting conducted after complaints of lewd behavior in a Minneapolis airport restroom. Craig pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.
On Sunday the Idaho Statesman reported in considerable detail the claims of two men who said they had sex with Craig, and two others who said he made passes at them.
One of the men, Mike Jones, 50, is a former prostitute whose revelations of encounters with the Rev. Ted Haggard prompted Haggard's resignation as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and forced him to step down from his Colorado church.
Jones told the Statesman that in the winter of 2004-2005, Craig, while visiting Denver, paid him $200 for an hour-long sexual encounter. Another man, David Phillips, told the paper he had sex with Craig in the summer of 1986 while Craig was a member of the House. The two met at a gay nightclub, according to Phillips, now 42 and an information technology consultant in Washington.
Craig, who is married, said the report had no "basis in reality" and accused the paper of engaging in "tabloid journalism" by running a story that was not corroborated.
"Despite the fact the Idaho Statesman has decided to pursue its own agenda and print these falsehoods without any facts to back them up, I won't let this paper's attempt to malign my name stop me from continuing my work to serve the people of Idaho," Craig said in a statement.
And so Craig soldiers on. His colleagues appear resigned to his staying.
"The matter's before the ethics committee, and we'll see what they think is appropriate," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday, declining to comment further.