More gay men describe sexual encounters with U.S. Sen. Craig

Allegations made since news of the Minneapolis case broke lend weight to rumors about Craig.

dpopkey@idahostatesman.comDecember 2, 2007 

Larry Craig

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, leaves a weekly policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington.

CHARLES DHARAPAK — AP file photo

  • AUDIO DISCLAIMER

    Some of these interview excerpts contain explicit descriptions of sex not appropriate for children and listeners who find such content offensive. The Statesman provides the excerpts so Idahoans can hear these accounts and decide for themselves about accusations against Sen. Craig.

Audio clip disclaimer: Some of the audio interview excerpts contain explicit descriptions of sex not appropriate for children and listeners who find such content offensive. The Statesman provides the excerpts so Idahoans can hear these accounts and decide for themselves about accusations against Sen. Craig.

David Phillips. Mike Jones. Greg Ruth. Tom Russell.

Four gay men, willing to put their names in print and whose allegations can't be disproved, have come forward since news of U.S. Sen. Larry Craig's guilty plea. They say they had sex with Craig or that he made a sexual advance or that he paid them unusual attention.

They are telling their stories now because they are offended by Craig's denials, including his famous statement, "I am not gay, I never have been gay." Those words, spoken on live national TV on Aug. 28, are now memorialized on a just-released-for-Christmas Talking Senator Larry Craig Action Figure.

David Phillips is a 42-year-old information technology consultant in Washington, D.C., who says Craig picked him up at a gay club in 1986 and that they subsequently had sex.

Mike Jones is a former prostitute who told the world he had sex with the Rev. Ted Haggard last year. The former Colorado Springs evangelist at first denied it but eventually confessed. Jones says Craig paid him for sex in late 2004 or early 2005.

Greg Ruth was a 24-year-old college Republican in 1981 when he says he was hit on by Craig at a Republican meeting in Coeur d'Alene.

Tom Russell, now 48, is a former Nampa resident who lives in Utah. Russell said his encounter with Craig occurred at Bogus Basin in the early 1980s.

A fifth gay man, who is from Boise but who declined to be named for fear of retaliation, offered a recent and telling account: He was in a men's restroom at Denver International Airport in September 2006 when the man in the next stall moved his hand slowly, palm up, under the divider. Alarmed, the man said he waited outside the restroom and then identified the man in the adjoining stall as Craig, whom he had met in Idaho.

Craig, 62, says he was a victim of "profiling" when he was arrested June 11 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer in an adjoining stall in a men's restroom. Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in August. He is appealing his conviction, financed by his 2008 re-election fund. Because of the scandal, Craig no longer needs the money to run for office; after 33 years in state and national office, he says he will not seek re-election next year. Craig also faces a Senate Ethics Committee inquiry, which was requested by Senate GOP leadership.

"I know what people feel like when they're profiled, when innocent people get caught up in what I was caught in as an innocent person," Craig told NBC's Matt Lauer in a prime-time interview that aired Oct. 16.

The appearance on NBC was the latest denial by Craig that he has engaged in gay sex.

The denials began June 30, 1982, when CBS broke news of a scandal alleging gay sex between congressmen and underage pages. The following day, before any public allegation that he was involved, then-Rep. Craig issued a denial. Craig married a year later and adopted the three children of his wife, Suzanne. In 1990, the Idaho Statesman asked Craig about an allegation that he was gay made by an opponent in his first Senate race. "Why don't you ask my wife?" Craig replied.

In October 2006, Craig directly denied the claims of a blogger who reported he'd spoken with three anonymous sources who said they had sex with Craig. In May 2007, after hearing a tape of an accuser who said he and Craig had sex in two men's restrooms at Washington's Union Station rail depot, Craig said, "I am not gay."

And when he emphatically told Matt Lauer he was neither gay nor bisexual, Craig persuaded 28 percent of viewers to believe he had been wrongly charged in Minnesota, according to a survey of 606 viewers by HCD Research and Muhlenberg College.

Craig declined comment on this story. He stopped replying to questions from the Statesman after the paper's Aug. 28 report that included the accounts of three unnamed men, one who said he had sex with Craig and two who said he solicited them for sex. But Craig's staff told other media that the allegations made by Phillips and Jones were false.

As with the Statesman's August report, the new evidence is not definitive. There are no videos, no love letters, no voice messages. Like last August, they are he-said, he-said allegations about a man seeking discreet sex from partners whom he counted on to never tell.

But the Statesman's investigation, which included reviews of travel and property records and background checks on all five men, found nothing to disprove the five new accounts. The men offer telling and sometimes similar details about what happened, or the senator's travel records place him in the city where sex is alleged to have occurred, or his accusers told credible witnesses at the time of the incident.

Craig has said he hoped to keep his guilty plea secret. Only after news of the guilty plea broke Aug. 27 did he tell his wife, staff, colleagues and constituents. His admission of guilt, taken together with the three accounts published Aug. 28 and the five new statements, add weight to the evidence that Craig has been living a double life.

HERE ARE THEIR STORIES:

DAVID PHILLIPS: SEX IN CAPITOL HILL HOUSE

Phillips' account was first published this Oct. 25 at Wonkette.com, a liberal Web site. Shortly after the Spokane Spokesman-Review linked to the story on Oct. 26, Craig spokesman Sid Smith replied on a blog that "there is not a shred of truth to this."

In a tape-recorded interview with the Statesman, the 1985 graduate of Rice University said he met Craig on a weekday afternoon between May and August 1986 at a gay strip club called The Follies in Washington, D.C. The club was a place where gay men met for sex, often on the premises. Phillips said he mistakenly told Wonkette the incident happened in 1987.

Phillips, then 21, said he and Craig talked and then hugged. Craig said he didn't feel comfortable at the club and suggested they leave. Phillips had his car, but Craig hailed a cab, with Phillips following him to Capitol Hill. The cab stopped and Craig got out, telling Phillips to park and wait for him to return. In a few minutes, Craig came back on foot and escorted Phillips to the rear door of a house reached by an alley.

On the way to an upstairs bedroom, Phillips said Craig told him, "You've never been here. You don't know me."

Phillips said Craig removed his suit coat, but otherwise remained dressed. He said Craig first performed oral sex on him, and then unzipped his pants so Phillips could reciprocate. Craig then left the room, returning with condoms and lubricant. The two men then had anal sex. Afterward, Craig became agitated and pressed Phillips to leave.

"After the sex, he just wanted me out of there," Phillips said. He said Craig stuck $20 in his pocket and said, "'I can buy and sell your ass a thousand times over. You were never here.' "

Phillips said he saw a note card addressed to Suzanne Craig as he left the house. But he said he never recognized Craig as his sex partner until the recent story broke and he heard Craig's distinctive and formal voice on TV.

"I didn't hear that voice again until August," Phillips said. "Then that 'I can buy and sell your ass a thousand times' came back to me. It just all rolled back so vividly."

Smith, the Craig spokesman, said in his blog posting after the Wonkette report that Phillips should not be believed because Craig did not live on Capitol Hill in 1987, but on his boat at the Capitol Yacht Club. "Everything in that story, from beginning to end, is pure lies and fiction," Smith wrote.

It's not clear whether Craig lived on a boat between May and August 1986, when Phillips said the encounter actually occurred. But Craig told the Statesman in May 2007 that he "went through four boats," remodeled them, "made a little money on each one," and sometimes lived on land between boats. It's also not clear whether Craig may have had access to a house on Capitol Hill.

MIKE JONES: MALE ESCORT TOOK $200 FROM CRAIG FOR SEX

Jones, 50, told the Statesman that Craig paid him $200 to have sex with him on a night between November 2004 and March 2005. Jones said he recognized Craig only after he became a big story in August.

"Once I saw Larry Craig do his news conference, that's when I go, 'My God! That guy came to see me.' "

Jones contacted the Statesman in September after Craig signaled he might back away from his vow to resign Sept. 30. After Craig said on Oct. 4 that he would complete his term in 2009 and appeared on NBC on Oct. 16, Jones went on the record with the Statesman, describing a sexual encounter with Craig. (In October, broadcast and Web reports quoted Jones saying Craig had visited him, but did not say the two had sex). Here is what Jones told the Statesman in a tape-recorded interview:

Jones said a man phoned to make an appointment, not giving his name. The man, whom Jones later recognized as Craig, then arrived at a studio apartment on Sherman Street in downtown Denver. Craig asked whether Jones followed politics but then quickly changed the subject. "When I said, 'Yes,' he said, 'Oh, gee, it's cold outside.'" Jones said he immediately deduced from his client's odd response that he was servicing a politician.

Craig removed his coat and dress shirt, leaving his T-shirt, slacks and shoes on when he climbed onto Jones's massage table. Craig asked that Jones be naked. Craig undid his own zipper and masturbated while performing oral sex on Jones. When Craig finished, he paid Jones $200 in cash and left.

The encounter lasted less than an hour, said Jones, who said he kept no records on his escort clients. Jones said he advertised his "massage" services exclusively in gay publications, including the bi-weekly newspaper Out Front Colorado and Rentboy.com.

Craig was in Denver on Feb. 11, 2005, and in nearby Keystone, Colo., on Feb. 12. On the 12th, he attended a meeting at the Keystone Center, a policy think tank. Craig's Senate travel records also show six other trips where Craig may have had layovers in Denver between November 2004 and March 2005.

Craig and his staff won't respond to questions from the Statesman. But Dan Whiting, a Craig spokesman, told KIVI-Today's 6, "Mike Jones is lying in order to sell his book - plain and simple. Larry has never met Mike Jones."

Jones has written a book about his experience with Haggard. Haggard resigned in November 2006 as president of the National Evangelical Association and was forced out as pastor of New Life Church after Jones came forward with voice mails implicating Haggard.

Jones acknowledged his allegation about Craig may help sell books, but said he is motivated by the desire to expose hypocritical conduct by men like Haggard and Craig, who has a consistently anti-gay voting record.

"Here they are putting down the gay community in a sense, treating us like second-class citizens, and they want to have their cake and eat it, too," he said.

GREG RUTH: RESTROOM PROPOSITION IN COEUR D'ALENE

Ruth attended the Republican Western Roundup in Coeur d'Alene in October 1981, where he said Craig made a sexual advance. At the time, Craig was a 36-year-old bachelor and first-year congressman and Ruth was a 24-year-old college Republican from the University of Puget Sound.

Ruth, who was openly gay in 1981, told the Statesman in a tape-recorded interview that Craig paid him unusual attention at the political gathering. Ruth said he excused himself to use the restroom, but Craig soon entered and stood next to Ruth at the urinal, looking at Ruth's penis.

"He looked over and said, 'Hi,'" Ruth said. "But he didn't touch me or anything like that. And then after we finished urinating, we washed hands. He gave me his phone number and he said, 'If you ever get to D.C., call me. You can stay with me.'"

Ruth, now a professional photographer, said he never followed up and lost the slip of paper with Craig's number. But Ruth said he has no doubt Craig was making a sexual advance. "I'm gay, and I knew he was hitting on me," Ruth said. "There's no question about that."

Returning to Tacoma, Wash., Ruth immediately told his uncle about the incident. The uncle, Gerald King, is a retired major who served 25 years in the Army. Ruth, 50, is a former Army captain who served seven years on active duty in the infantry and 12 years in the Army Reserve.

"Mind you," said King, "Greg was strikingly handsome. (Craig) was extremely friendly and overt with Greg in trying to get him to socialize with him."

King said his nephew told him in 1981 that Craig made a sexual advance. "No question about it," said King. "I don't think they were going to make Jell-O."

ANOTHER MEN'S RESTROOM ENCOUNTER

Another gay man, a 46-year-old professional from Boise, told the Statesman that Craig reached his hand into his restroom stall in September 2006 during a layover at the Denver airport. The man, who travels in political circles, had met Craig before. He asked that he not be named by the Statesman.

The man said he was flying from Boise to Washington, D.C., on the same flights as Craig and Craig's wife, Suzanne. Denver, like Minneapolis, is a key connecting hub for flights between Boise and Washington.

During the layover in Denver, the man said he was in a men's restroom stall when a hand came under the divider and reached toward him. The hand was palm up, as the officer in Minnesota also described, and slid toward him for two or three seconds. The man said he noticed unpolished, dark, lace-up shoes worn by the man in the next stall. He did not respond to the gesture.

"I freaked out," said the man, who was traveling with his long-time partner. "I finished my business and left."

The man said he then waited outside the men's restroom on a bench. Shortly after, a man wearing the shoes he saw in the adjacent stall exited. The man was Larry Craig.

"Those shoes came out, and I looked up, and it was like, 'Oh, my God.'"

After boarding the second flight, the man told his partner about the incident. The partner confirmed having heard the details of Craig's advance that day.

The man said one reason he requires anonymity is he fears Craig will use his power to retaliate. He is afraid Craig may have recognized him and, perhaps knowing he is gay, followed him into the men's restroom thinking he would be amenable to sex.

TOM RUSSELL: MUTUAL COME-ON AT BOGUS BASIN SKI RESORT

Russell, 48, a Nampa native who lives in Utah, was among three men who contacted the Statesman about what they described as unusually attentive behavior on Craig's part. Russell was willing to be named for this story and spoke in a tape-recorded interview.

Russell worked as a food service manager at Bogus Basin ski resort and said his encounter probably occurred in the 1983-84 ski season, soon after Craig had married following the 1982 page scandal. Russell had taken a food class from Suzanne Craig and had heard the rumors that Craig was gay.

Russell, openly gay at the time, said he set out to engage Craig "and attempted to show a personal interest - not in a suggestive way - but a personal interest to see if he would respond."

"I recall that he was very delighted to talk to me - smiling, happy, very delighted - and that he had suggested that we could get together sometime," he said. "Why would he have a personal interest in meeting me elsewhere?"

Russell said he became convinced Craig was gay because he used subtle signals consistent with communication between gay men in public places.

"You've heard the term, 'gaydar'? OK, it's there. You know it. You know when somebody is raising an eyebrow at you because it's their gesture when they say 'hello' or when they are subtly trying to send you a message that they recognize you as being a gay person."

Nothing came of the meeting, Russell said. But he came forward now because he is offended by Craig's denials.

"I'm disgusted because it's hypocritical, and he's lying. He's lying through his teeth. Heterosexual men do not behave like that."

Dan Popkey: 377-6438

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