At one point during the hourlong interview with Larry and Suzanne Craig that aired Tuesday night, NBC's Matt Lauer tried to ask the couple if their marriage was really just a cover for the senator's homosexuality.
He couldn't do it.
"There were people who said," he started.
He stopped and started again.
"It's almost hard for me to say this to you," he said.
Apparently feeling Lauer's pain as much as he felt hers, Suzanne Craig came to the newsman's rescue. "I know what you're going to say," she said.
Lauer took the lifeline.
Lauer: No, what -- what were they saying?
Suzanne Craig: They were saying that it was a marriage of convenience.
Lauer: To cover --
Suzanne Craig: To cover --
Lauer: -- a gay lifestyle.
Question asked, and soon enough, question answered. Suzanne Craig said it wasn't true. Larry Craig said it wasn't true. And Matt Lauer declared, "You know, and here you are all these years later still married, proving everyone wrong and yet still dealing with these rumors ... and this innuendo."
It may not have been the lowest point in Lauer's softball session with the Craigs, but that's only because there were so many others. Among the questions Lauer put to the Craigs:
"I want to give you a chance to talk about what has been distorted. But let me take you back a little bit first, Senator, and -- and, you know, this is your home. This was where you were raised, on a ranch. You went to school here, one-room schoolhouse. You were in the National Guard in Idaho. You got into politics here. You've served the people of Idaho in Washington -- what? Thirty years now. What do you remember most about first going to Washington?"
"So it sounds like you're saying some of what goes on in Washington is a bit distasteful to you."
"You walked into that bathroom, Senator. Six minutes later, you were under arrest ... and your career was in jeopardy, and your family life was in jeopardy. So how should we handle this? Do you want to tell me what happened?
"Mitt Romney, John McCain, Peter Hoekstra, Mitch McConnell, and we have an expression in New York, they threw you under the bus ... These are friends, weren't they? ... Well, doesn't seem as if they are today."
Toward the end of the interview -- which is to say, after Lauer failed to challenge Larry Craig on inconsistencies in his own story, after Lauer let Craig make claims contradicted by the police account of his arrest, and after Lauer said that Craig "changed his mind" about resigning when, in fact, Craig cynically rewrote his "intent to resign" announcement specifically to leave open that possibility -- the newsman worked up his courage to ask the big questions.
"You're going to have to forgive me for this," he told Craig. "Are you technically not a homosexual? Is it possible you're bisexual?"
When Craig said no, Lauer asked him whether it would be "awful" for him to admit that he's gay, if in fact he is. "I don't agree with the lifestyle," Craig said, "and I've said so by my votes over the years and by my expressions."
Oh, right, the votes and expressions: Craig's support for a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage; his vote against a bill that would have outlawed job discrimination based on sexual orientation; his argument, made after he pleaded guilty in the men's room incident, that "Don't ask, don't tell" shouldn't be repealed because "it is unacceptable to risk the lives of American soldiers and sailors merely to accommodate the sexual lifestyles of certain individuals." Incredibly, it was Craig who put his antigay record and the possibility of hypocrisy into play.
Lauer didn't bother to follow up.
A few minutes later, Lauer noted that "according to the polls," "some of the people in Idaho" think Craig should resign. Suzanne Craig pushed back: "There's so many more who don't want him to resign," she said. It's not true -- in a poll released last week, only 21 percent of Idahoans said they agreed with Craig's decision to stay in the Senate -- but Lauer was either too clueless or too polite to say so.