Craig's Remarks Slammed by Republicans

As Sen. Larry Craig's comments disavowing his guilty plea and denying that he's gay at his Tuesday press conference ricocheted around the country, the reaction was fast and furious.

The three-term Republican Senator from Idaho was blasted by several of his own party's presidential candidates and colleagues on Capitol Hill although he maintains the support of many former staffers and political allies in his home state.

Two of his Republican colleagues in the Senate, John McCain and Norman Coleman, called for Craig to resign and the White House expressed disappointment in the case of Craig's arrest in June during an undercover police operation in a men's room at Minneapolis airport.

"I think he should resign," McCain told CNN, explaining that the decision was up to Craig "but my opinion is that when you plead guilty to a crime, you shouldn't serve. That's not a moral stand. That's not a holier-than-thou. It's just a factual situation."

Coleman said in a statement, "Senator Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator."

In addition, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, R-MI, said Craig "represents the Republican party" and that "his conduct throughout this matter has been inappropriate for a U.S. senator."

Craig pleaded guilty in August to a charge of disorderly conduct following his arrest in a men's room at the Minneapolis airport. He said Tuesday he had done nothing wrong and was sorry he pleaded guilty.

Senate Republican leaders have called on the ethics committee to review Craig's case, and White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said he hoped the panel could do its work quickly.

Mitt Romney, whom Craig served as the co-chair of his presidential campaign, called reports that the Idaho senator allegedly solicited an undercover cop of his arrest "disgusting" and "very disappointing."

Another leading candidate, John McCain, said Tuesday night on Jay Leno that the incident was "disgraceful…It harms our reputation with the American people."

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, another Republican candidate for the White House, said that he was concerned about Craig's activity during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. "I think when you see public figures who have spoken in one way and maybe acted in a different way. Frankly Americans will forgive us for being sinners. They won't forgive us for being hypocrites."

Even former presidential candidates got into the act with Gary Bauer telling the New York Times that Craig's remarks reminded him of Bill Clinton's defense at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal: "He sounded almost as convincing as, 'I did not have sex with that woman.' "

Back home, Idaho's political leaders were a little more diplomatic in their remarks about their senator's fall from grace.

The state's Republican party chairman J. Kirk Sullivan issued a statement praising Craig for his representation of Idaho's interests, adding "Until the facts of this situation are made clear, I would encourage all Idahoans to avoid rushing to judgment and making brash statements about a man who has dedicated his life to public service."

Even those who stand to gain the most from Craig's misfortunes were respectful in their remarks. John Foster, the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party declined comment, explaining, "Anything we would say would turn this into a political issue and this is an issue between Senator Craig and his family."

Craig's likely opponent if he decides to run for reelection, Democrat Larry LaRocco, also tempered his remarks. LaRocco, a former Congressman who ran against Craig numerous times, endured his own mini-scandal back in 1994, when he lost his Congressional seat after it was disclosed that he essentially misled voters about a sexual harassment incident in 1991.

"There's a lot that has to be sorted out," LaRocco told "Right now, it looks like he will fight this so it's a very personal decision on his part."

Some of Craig's former staffers and allies were loyal to him andsaid they believed the senator's remarks during his press conference.

"The facts are still coming out and we owe it to him to hear the facts and weight the evidence," says former Idaho Republican Party executive director Mike Reynoldson, who added that Craig is a "great American and one way or another, he will work his way through it." Reynoldson said that in all the years he worked with Craig, "there was no indication that he's gay."

Jeff Malmen, chief of staff to Idaho governor Butch Otter, served in the same role for Craig in the early 1990s and he was equally supportive of his former boss. "I'd give great deference to Larry Craig. He's always been straightforward when I've been around him." Asked about Craig's tense relationship with the Idaho Statesman, which the senator accused of launching a witchhunt against him with their aggressive coverage of his sexuality, Malmen said that the paper is accused by both Republicans and Democrats of favoring the other side. "I do know that they've spent an enormous amount of time trying to find something on this issue."

The Associated Press contributed to this article