The U.S. senator and the bathroom stall

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, pleads guilty to lewd behavior in an airport restroom, an incident that could affect the 2008 election.

Published August 27, 2007 9:45PM (EDT)

Sen. Larry Craig, the senior Republican from Idaho, pleaded guilty this month to charges of misdemeanor disorderly conduct after a police officer witnessed him engaging in lewd behavior in an airport restroom, reports Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper.

The damning and detailed report of the crime in June at a men's room at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has significant ramifications for the 2008 election, when Craig faces reelection. Craig, who is married, has long denied claims by an online activist that he has engaged in homosexual liaisons in public places, including the restrooms at Washington's Union Station. First elected in 1990, Craig has not yet announced whether he will run for reelection.

The Roll Call report of the incident also suggests that Craig may have improperly invoked his position as a U.S. senator during the booking process. According to the police report, Craig handed his Senate business card to a police officer and said, "What do you think about that?"

According to the police report, Craig entered the airport restroom and lingered outside a stall occupied by a plainclothes police officer. Craig then entered an adjacent toilet stall, tapped his foot against the officer's foot and put his hand under the divider separating the two men.

The officer then showed Craig his police identification under the stall divider, and pointed Craig toward the restroom's exit. According to the report, Craig responded by saying, "No!"

During booking, Craig denied any wrongdoing, saying "that he has a wide stance when going to the bathroom," according to the police report. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct on Aug. 8.

Update: The Idaho Statesman reports that Craig released a statement this afternoon saying that he erred in pleading guilty.

The Craig statement reads: "At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions. . . . I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct. I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously."

By Michael Scherer

Michael Scherer is Salon's Washington correspondent. Read his other articles here.

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