Mon, Sep 03, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Senator Craig resigns over sex scandal

END OF AN ERA The senator who has represented Idaho for more than 25 years resigned at the behest of fellow Republicans and will concentrate on his legal options

AP , BOISE, IDAHO

US Senator Larry Craig of Idaho makes his way to the podium with his wife Suzanne before addressing the media to announce his resignation from the Senate at the Boise Train Depot in Boise, Idaho, on Saturday. Craig resigned over a men's room sex sting.

PHOTO: EPA

Senator Larry Craig resigned on Saturday over a scandal following his arrest for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer in an airport bathroom, bowing to pressure from fellow Republicans worried about dimming their election prospects for next year.

"I apologize for what I have caused. I am deeply sorry," Craig said, his wife Suzanne at his side.

Craig's resignation completed a stunning downfall that began last Monday with the disclosure that he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge following his arrest during an undercover police vice operation in an airport men's room in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Although leading members of his own party had called for him to step down, Craig steadfastly re-sisted resigning for days, contending he had done nothing wrong and that his only mistake was pleading guilty on Aug. 1 to a misdemeanor charge.

US President George W. Bush called Craig from the White House after the senator's announcement on Saturday and told him he knew it was a difficult decision to make, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

"Senator Craig made the right decision for himself, for his family, his constituents and the United States Senate," Stanzel said.

Craig was arrested on June 11 in a men's room at the Minneapolis airport. The arresting officer, Sergeant Dave Karsnia, said in his report that the restroom is a known location for homosexual activity.

"I am not gay. I never have been gay," Craig said after a news conference on Tuesday.

He said he had kept the incident from aides, friends and family and pleaded guilty "in hopes of making it go away."

He said on Saturday he will pursue legal options to clear his name, but added that the effort "would be an unwanted and unfair distraction from my job and for my Senate colleagues.

"The people of Idaho deserve a senator who can devote 100 percent of his time and effort to the critical issues of our state and of our nation," Craig said. "I have little control over what people choose to believe. But clearly my name is important to me, and my family is so very important also."

Craig announced later on Saturday that he has retained Billy Martin, a Washington lawyer who represented Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in his dogfighting case, to pursue his legal options. Washington lawyer Stan Brand will represent Craig before the Senate ethics committee, spokesman Dan Whiting said.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said that Craig "made a difficult decision, but the right one."

"It is my hope he will be remembered not for this, but for his three decades of dedicated public service," McConnell said.

McConnell had been one of Craig's harshest critics, calling his actions "unforgivable."

He and other Republican leaders asked Craig to give up his senior positions on Senate committees on Wednesday, a day after they asked the Senate ethics committee to investigate the case and his actions.

Craig spokesman Sidney Smith said he did not know if Craig would return to Washington.

"We haven't decided that yet, whether he's going to return or not," Smith said.

Craig, 62, represented Idaho in Congress for more than a quarter-century and was up for re-election next year. He had not announced if he would run for a fourth term.

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