Craig Struggles to Hold His Seat

With his mug shot making the media rounds, Idaho's senior Republican senator, Larry Craig, is struggling to hold onto his seat on Capitol Hill.

If Craig returns to Washington, he'll face an ethics investigation launched by leaders of his own party. The right-wing blogosphere is clamoring for his resignation. And less than 24 hours ago, he faced the cameras in an attempt to explain his guilty plea in a case that followed a lewd conduct investigation.

With his wife by his side, Craig said: "Let me be clear: I am not gay, I have never been gay."

It's a striking statement from the U.S. senator, who was the subject of a police sting set up in response to complaints of sexual activity in a men's room at a Minnesota airport.

"I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis airport," said Craig. "I regret my decision to plead guilty and the sadness that decision has brought to my wife, family, friends, staff and fellow Idahoans. And for that, I apologize."

The arresting airport office has a different story. Working undercover, Sgt. Dave Karsnia said Craig entered a stall next to him, then tapped his foot and rubbed it against the officer's, a signal, police say, to engage in "lewd conduct."

"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."

Craig now says the guilty plea was a mistake, painting quite a different portrait than he did just three weeks ago in court documents in which he stated "I'm pleading guilty" to "physical" conduct that tended "to arouse alarm." He entered that plea "freely and voluntarily."

Craig pleaded guilty to those disorderly conduct charges without an attorney.

"I should not have kept this arrest to myself, and should have told my family and my friends about it. I wasn't eager to share this failure, but I should have anyway because I am not gay," a contrite Craig said Tuesday.

Craig blames the situation on pressure from an investigation by his hometown newspaper, which ran a front page story outlining three additional alleged sexual encounters.

In a written statement Tuesday, Republican leaders had no words of support for their colleague in the Senate. Rather, they called for an ethics committee to review Craig's guilty plea and are "examining other aspects of the case to see if additional action is required."