In the closet? Or just a bathroom stall?

U.S. Sen. Larry Craig was arrested in June for trying to initiate "lewd conduct" with an undercover police officer in an airport bathroom.

Published August 28, 2007 2:00PM (EDT)

Oh, Larry Craig. News has just come out that the 62-year-old Republican senator from Idaho -- you know, the socially conservative supporter of the Federal Marriage Amendment whose 2005 voting record got 96 out of 100 points from the American Conservative Union -- was arrested on June 11 for trying to initiate "lewd" contact with a male undercover police officer in an airport bathroom. Oopsies.

According to Roll Call (which broke the news), Sgt. Dave Karsnia was responding to civilian reports of sexual activity in one of the bathrooms at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. No doubt cursing his assignment, Karsnia picked a stall, sat down on the toilet, and waited for something sketchy to occur. It didn't take long. He soon noticed "an older white man with grey hair" standing outside of his stall, according to the police report. The man looked through the crack of the stall at Karsnia, looked down at his hands, "'fidgeted'" with his fingers, and then looked back through the crack of the stall again -- in a cycle that Karsnia reports continued for about two minutes.

That's creepy enough. But then, according to Karsnia, Craig walked into the stall next to him, dropped his pants, sat down, and pushed his roller bag up against the stall door, in a move Karsnia claims to have seen used by individuals "engaging in lewd conduct" in order to block the view of what's happening inside the stall. Then Craig tapped his right foot, which Karsnia recognized as a signal often used to start something sketchy. Karsnia "moved [his] foot up and down slowly" in response (they're teases, these undercover police officers). A subtle tactic, but one that proved irresistible -- Craig moved his foot closer to Karsnia's, so that their feet touched.

Then, just to seal the deal, Craig stuck his hand underneath the stall divider and started to "swipe" it back and forth several times, palm to the ceiling. Such a flirt! But Craig's coquettish charm wasn't enough to deter Karsnia from making his final move: Swiping his own hand underneath the stall divider -- holding his police badge. He then pointed to the exit (Craig apparently said, "No!") and eventually led the embarrassed, disappointed Craig off to be interrogated.

Apparently, when questioned, Craig claimed to have been innocently waiting outside the stall. But what about the foot touching? He has a "wide stance" when going to the bathroom. And the hand waving? He was reaching for a piece of errant toilet tissue. Who cares that the police report specifically states that there was no paper on the floor, or that his hand was palm up? Or that on Aug. 8, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct? As of Monday, Craig said he committed no wrongdoing and that he regrets his guilty plea.

Yes, it's satisfying to hear of a United States senator with a record of homophobia trying to seduce a plainclothes police officer in an airport bathroom stall. Call it schadenfreude, but something about the hypocrisy is delicious. But second, female readers, can we discuss for a moment how terrifying this behavior would be in the women's room? Sure, there was a girl in my middle school who used to climb up on toilet seats and peer over the stall dividers on her unsuspecting classmates, alerting us to her presence by singing an off-key rendition of the Chevrolet theme song "Like a Rock." It was weird, but we all knew she wasn't trying to start something. The idea of seeing someone peering through a bathroom stall is downright creepy, and that's not even including the vision of a disembodied hand sweeping back and forth underneath the divider. Imagine those hands and eyes belonging to, well, pretty much anyone in the Senate, and it's enough to make you run screaming.

But perhaps the biggest point of all is just a piece of advice: If you are a member of the U.S. government worried that your homosexual proclivities will go against your homophobic agenda, you should keep your sex life in the closet -- or, at least, in a place more private than a bathroom in Minneapolis-St. Paul. And also, come up with a better excuse; as any woman can tell you, a hand under a bathroom stall has only one acceptable justification: asking your neighbor, as Elaine did in "Seinfeld," if he or she can spare a square.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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