Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, strongly asserted this afternoon that he is not gay and that his decision to plead guilty to disorderly conduct in a public men's room was a mistake. The conservative senator was arrested in June on charges of lewd and disorderly conduct in a men's restroom at the Minneapolis, Minn., airport.
"Let me be clear, I am not gay. I never have been gay," Craig told reporters in Boise, Idaho.
Craig denied rumors that he would resign, but added that he would announce next month whether or not he will seek re-election.
"I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis airport. I regret my decision to plead guilty and the sadness that decision has brought to my wife, family, friends, staff and fellow Idahoans. For that I apologize," he said.
"In June, I overreacted and made a poor decision. While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis airport or anywhere else, I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in the hope of making it go away. I did not seek any counsel, either from an attorney, staff, friends or family. That was a mistake, and I deeply regret it. Because of that, I have now retained counsel and I am asking my counsel to review this matter and to advise me on how to proceed," Craig said.
It would be a rare case in Minneapolis if Craig were permitted to withdraw his guilty plea. Jeff Mohr, a criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis, told ABC News, "It's a final thing. If you put in a plea, that's usually that. Unless there are some really unusual circumstances, you wouldn't be able to withdraw it."
If there were some procedural errors in the handling of his case, the senator may have an option to withdraw the plea, Mohr said. If, for example, Craig didn't understand his right to a lawyer and trial, or understand the charge against him, or knowingly and voluntarily waive his rights, he might have a basis to withdraw his plea.
Craig's colleagues in the Senate, including Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Republican Whip Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, had earlier described his arrest as a "serious matter" and recommended that the incident be reported to the Senate Ethics Committee for its review.
Long dogged by rumors about his sexuality, the married three-term senator — who opposes extending special protections to gay and lesbian crime victims — was arrested June 11 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on charges of lewd and disorderly conduct in a men's restroom.
Craig said he decided to plead guilty to put the matter behind him quickly spurred and that his hasty decision was spurred by what he described as a "witch hunt" carried out by an Idaho newspaper. For eight months, Craig said, "my family and I had been relentlessly and viciously harassed by the Idaho Statesman [newspaper]." The newspaper was investigating him for alleged homosexual encounters in public restrooms.
As rumors swirled through the Beltway that Craig might step down, some of his longtime allies denounced his behavior and called for his resignation.