Larry Craig

Barker blog: Craig's arrest story becomes top national news by this morning

When Sen. Larry Craig’s arrest became public Monday afternoon, thanks to a report on Roll Call’s Web site, the news spread faster than a windswept fire through dry Idaho rangeland.

As soon as I got a call on it, I passed it on to our editors who were already getting the story out on and working with Dan Popkey to write his report in today’s Idaho Statesman.

I returned to the newsroom and was told to prepare for an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Popkey would be too busy writing.

I have covered Craig’s career since 1985. I covered his 2002 reelection campaign and even investigated the rumors surrounding his homosexual behavior back in 1996 when I worked in Idaho Falls. I turned up nothing credible just as several other Idaho journalists had done until the Minnesota arrest and Popkey’s report today.

I had worked the periphery of Popkey’s investigations after gay activist blogger Mike Rogers’ outing of Craig in October. Idaho Statesman executive editor Vicki Gowler chose not to run his unsubstantiated allegations without further evidence and put Popkey on the story.

Within 20 minutes Monday afternoon, I was on the phone with Blitzer’s producers and moments later with Wolf himself. He asked me whether I was shocked by the story of Craig’s arrest and conviction. I was shocked.

My U.S. senator had pleaded guilty to charges of disorderly conduct in early August after a plain-clothes police officer alleged lurid behavior. He didn’t tell the public about the arrest nor the conviction. In light of all of the charges and Craig's recognition that Popkey was investigating the story, the arrest was shocking.

By the end of the day, the Craig story had pushed the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales into a second-tier story on the Web.

L.A. right wing radio host Mike Savage was saying disgusting things about Craig, who he doesn’t like anyway because of Craig’s efforts to pass an immigration bill.

This morning, the Craig story led all the morning shows and the Matt Drudge Report. The questions they raised were whether Craig would survive politically this news cycle.

It was a remarkable and unfortunate turn of events for Idaho’s senior senator and his thousands of friends and supporters inside Idaho and out.

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