Though his reputation was recently tarnished by the now infamous airport bathroom arrest, U.S. Sen. Larry Craig was honored Saturday evening for his many years of public service at an Idaho Hall of Fame ceremony.
David Leroy, the emcee for the ceremony and former lieutenant governor, noted at the opening of the event that the board had been criticized by media outlets nationwide for its decision not to pull Craig from their group of inductees, which includes Gov. Butch Otter and Boise State University President Bob Kustra.
"The Idaho Hall of Fame board has well considered each of these nominees," Leroy said, adding later that the Hall of Fame honors a history of achievement.
In his introduction of Craig, he entertained the audience with quotes about the price of fame, including one by author Truman Capote, who said, "Fame is only good for one thing — they will cash your check in a small town."
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He also quoted Brad Pitt, who once said, "Fame is a bitch, man." Craig seized on that when he took the podium.
"My fame of the last month I think I would liken to the definition Brad Pitt gave it," he said, eliciting laughter from the audience.
The Hall of Fame Board voted to induct Craig in March — long before the recent scandal, said Michael Ritz, a member of the board. He said the board takes no position on the recent events.
Craig, who served a decade in the House before his 1990 election to the Senate, attended the ceremony with his wife, children, extended family and some members of his staff.
Craig, who wore a dark blue suit and light blue tie, talked animatedly with family at his table, including his mother and sister. His wife, Suzanne, sat at another table with their children and other family members.
During his acceptance speech, Craig thanked his wife, who he referred to as a "marvelous blond lady."
Also during his speech before the 220-plus member audience, Craig acknowledged the intense news media scrutiny his nomination brought to the event.
"I hope in a very sincere way that the attention brought to me has not lessened the honor you are about to receive tonight," Craig told his fellow Hall of Fame inductees at the $50-a-plate event.
Rather than reflecting on his own achievements, Craig spoke at length about the work of Dee Klenck, the founder of the Idaho Hall of Fame. Craig said he met Klenck when he was an Idaho state senator from Payette and Klenck was a local businesswoman there. He described her as "the Energizer Bunny of Payette."
"Ladies and gentlemen, great ideas are sometimes slow to blossom," Craig said. He praised Klenck for her perseverance in creating the Idaho Hall of Fame.
Craig's induction came five months before his arrest in a Minnesota bathroom sex sting. Craig has been embroiled in controversy since his arrest and subsequent guilty plea to disorderly conduct in Minnesota for allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover officer became public. Craig originally said he would resign but now says he will serve out his term.
Hall of Fame officials had gotten pressure to postpone or drop Craig's induction but decided to proceed as planned, "because it's a Hall of Fame event and that's what we're going to do," said Ann Rydalch, a member of the Hall of Fame's board of directors.
The Hall of Fame is a nonprofit, volunteer organization that has been inducting people since 1995, Rydalch said. There is no building housing the Hall, but Rydalch said organizers are hoping to persuade the Idaho Historical Museum to devote a wing to inductees.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Heath Druzin: 373-6617; Katy Moeller: 377-6413.