Sen. Larry Craig offered new details of his arrest and his decision to stay in office in two broadcast interviews Tuesday as his wife, Suzanne, said she agonized over her husband's actions before deciding to stand by him.
Craig took issue with the police account of what happened in that infamous men's room stall at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, saying the officer who arrested him profiled him and wanted an arrest more than he wanted the truth.
Suzanne Craig, meanwhile, said she searched her soul to decide whether her husband was gay. When he told her, six weeks after the arrest, that it was about to become public in a Capitol Hill newspaper, it was "like the floor was falling out from under me," she said.
The Craigs sat side by side on their sofa in their Eagle home for both interviews — one broadcast locally on Boise station KTVB-TV (Channel 7), the other nationally on NBC. The interviews marked the first time Suzanne Craig has said anything publicly about her husband.
SUZANNE CRAIG: MY HUSBAND IS FAITHFUL
Suzanne Craig stepped forward as her husband's staunchest defender.
Disappointed: She wasn't angry, she said, but disappointed that her husband chose not to tell her or anyone about it until the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call contacted him to tell him they were publishing a story about his arrest and guilty plea. It was "almost like I was going down a drain for a few moments."
She asked if he's gay: "I asked myself if I missed something somewhere," she said. "I mean, we can all be naive, and we all can live in our own worlds. And I thought, am I just out there somehow being naive?"
Then she added: "I honestly believe my husband has been faithful to me, in every way."
Marriage is genuine: She quickly dispelled long-held rumors that their 1983 marriage was a match made to cover up her husband's sexual orientation. "They were saying it's a marriage of convenience," Suzanne Craig said. "Give me a break!"
"Almost pornographic" tape: She said she felt "violated" when the Statesman confronted her husband with a recording of an interview with a man who said he had a sexual encounter with her husband. The tape was "almost pornographic."
"I knew immediately it was not the truth because the description he gave of Larry and some areas that only I might know about, were wrong."
LARRY CRAIG: ‘WHAT DO I DO NOW?'
Craig described his decision not to tell anyone about his arrest as a "tough call," but also a "very, very big mistake."
In a panic: "For a moment in time I was in a panic, and I'm going, oh, what do I do now?" he said.
Easy way out: Craig said that what he regrets most is not picking up the phone and telling his wife or family — or even his staff or a lawyer — about the arrest. He had little explanation for his guilty plea to disorderly conduct, other than that "it sounded like an easy way out of this." As soon as he signed the guilty plea and dropped it in the mail, "There was a sense of relief," he told NBC's Matt Lauer. "And I hoped it would go away."
The media storm: "I wanted to avoid the media storm. But I didn't. The media storm came."
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE MEN'S ROOM
Lauer took Craig step-by-step through what happened the day of his arrest. He asked the senator whether he was aware that the restroom was a cruising spot, known on gay-themed Web sites and chat rooms as a spot where men who wanted to have sex could meet.
Didn't know about men's room: Craig said he wasn't aware that the bathroom he visited had that reputation. "I use bathrooms for bathrooms' sake," Craig said.
Reaching for license: Craig said that when he was questioned by airport police, he presented a business card identifying him as a U.S. senator. He also acknowledged asking the officer, "What do you think of that?" The officer saw the senate card when Craig reached for his driver's license, Craig said.
Confused, embarrassed: The interrogation reflects his confused state of mind at the time, he said. "I was at a very frustrated angry, embarrassed situation," he said. "The tape, I think, is very clear, about what I said, how I reacted."
Intimidated by officer: Craig said he disagreed with the assessment of the situation by arresting officer Sgt. Dave Karsnia and said he felt "intimidated" by the officer. But he stopped short of calling Karsnia a liar.
Victim of profiling: Craig proclaimed his innocence several times and said he was the victim of "profiling," which he said he has always opposed. "The worst thing in a free society is to have law enforcement profiling people because they look a certain way," he said. He said he may take a look at legislation protecting people from police entrapment in public bathrooms and other public places.
NBC said an airport spokesman acknowledged that police used profiling to focus on Craig but arrested him because he committed specific acts that constituted a crime.
Is being gay so bad? Asked whether he thought it would "be awful" if he were gay, Craig said, "I don't agree with the lifestyle, and I've said so by my votes over the years and by my expressions."
WHY — and how — HE CHANGED HIS MIND
Craig acknowledged that he sent Idahoans mixed messages by first appearing to announce his resignation in early September, then saying he will complete his term.
Warm response in D.C.: He said when he got back to Washington, D.C. he got a warm response from many colleagues that convinced him he could still be effective. "While some had already spoken out (against me) — three or four — there were a good many others who welcomed me back with open arms and said, ‘Larry, fight for your rights, and we'll defend you and support you in doing that.'"
‘Intent to resign': Asked if he had gone back on his word by changing his mind about resigning, Craig said when he announced Sept. 1 his "intent to resign" from the Senate he though he would have to resign. But he also said that before that announcement, supportive calls, including one from Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Spector, convinced him that he might be able to stay.
"The day I said what I said, it was my plan to resign," he told KTVB's Mark Johnson. "Circumstance changed."
Not the easy way out: He said several times resigning would be taking the "easy way out."
"I think most Idahoans know I've never taken the easy way out. I stand my ground."
SUPPORT AT HOME
Want a hug? Suzanne Craig said she gets a lot of support from strangers when she goes out. "They'd say, ‘You're Mrs. Craig, please, I want to tell you and tell your husband to hang in there. Would you like a hug?' "
Thank-you notes: Craig said he's written between 800 and 900 thank you notes to people who have been supportive during the controversy. "And frankly, when I sit down and read all those e-mails, it's therapy. And, again, I need a little therapy."
GOP RESPONSE: SILENCE
No one's talking: Gov. Butch Otter' and Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, who is running for Craig's Senate seat in 2008, had no comment. Idaho Republican Chairman Kirk Sullivan, Senate GOP leaders and Idaho's congressional delegation also declined comment.
Heath Druzin: 373-6617