Craig Resigns After Sex Scandal

Craig was arrested in June for allegedly soliciting sex in an airport mensroom.

January 8, 2009, 1:09 AM

Sept. 1, 2007 — -- Facing mounting pressure and a Senate ethics investigation launched by his own political party after an embarrassing arrest, Sen. Larry Craig has resigned from Congress.

"It is with sadness and deep regret that I announce it is my intent to resign from the Senate effective Sept. 30," said Craig, flanked by his family, Idaho's governor and other Idaho officials. "I apologize to the people of my great state for being unable to serve a full term to which I have been elected."

The veteran Idaho Republican came under fire Aug. 27 as details of his June lewd conduct arrest in an airport restroom — and his subsequent guilty plea to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct — were made public in a Capitol Hill newspaper report.

Despite the guilty plea, Craig continued to suggest his innocence as he announced his resignation.

"I apologize for what I have caused," Craig said. "I am deeply sorry. I have little control over what people choose to believe."

Minneapolis Airport Police Sgt. Dave Karsnia arrested Craig on June 11 as part of a sting operation targeting improper sexual activity in a men's restroom. Karsnia detailed Craig's alleged attempt to solicit sex in his arrest report, stating that Craig used signals "used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct."

Craig entered a guilty plea to disorderly conduct Aug. 8.

One day after his guilty plea made national headlines, Craig addressed reporters in Boise, asserting that he "was not involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis airport or anywhere else" and that he only pleaded guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct "in hopes of making it go away."

Craig said of entering the plea without consulting a lawyer, "That was a mistake and I deeply regret it."

The news of Craig's arrest and plea elicited a swift response from scandal-weary Republicans, still reeling from summer episodes such as the FBI raid on the home of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and the revelation that the name of Sen. David Vitter, R-La., appeared in past phone records of an alleged prostitution ring.

The Senate's Republican leadership recommended the "incident be reported to the Senate Ethics Committee for its review" Aug. 28, one day after the incident gained media momentum. Shortly thereafter, Craig also relinquished his senior standing on Senate committees.

Additionally, Craig's Republican colleagues Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Norm Coleman of Minnesota joined Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., Aug. 29 calling for Craig's resignation, just two days after the incident first received attention.

The same day the incident first grabbed headlines, Craig stepped down from a leadership post with the presidential campaign of former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. Romney immediately distanced himself from Craig, denouncing the bathroom arrest as part of a "parade of sexual misconduct in Washington, D.C." in an Aug. 28 CNBC interview.

In an audio recording of the post-arrest interview, Craig is heard denying any improper conduct, saying, "I am not gay. I don't do these kinds of things," and "I don't seek activity in bathrooms." Craig also admonished Karsnia, the arresting officer, saying, "You shouldn't be out to entrap people either."

But Karsnia did not buy Craig's denials, saying, "Well, you're not being truthful with me. I'm kinda disappointed in you, senator. I'm real disappointed in you right now."

The officer grew audibly frustrated toward the end of the interview, saying, "I guess I'm gonna say I'm just disappointed in you, sir. I'm just really am. I expect this from the guy that we get out of the 'hood. I mean, people vote for you."

Craig challenged the officer's account of events one last time, insisting , "All right, you saw something that didn't happen." An exasperated Karsnia concluded the post-arrest interview saying, "Embarrassing, embarrassing. No wonder why we're going down the tubes."

During his Aug. 28 appearance before reporters in Boise, the senator reiterated, "I am not gay. I never have been gay," and pointed a finger at an Idaho newspaper for engaging in a "witch hunt." The staff of Boise's Idaho Statesman had extensively researched Craig's background and published a lengthy report about the senator the day after the incident was publicized.

Craig has faced speculation on his sexual orientation and alleged clandestine encounters since the early 1980s, when he preemptively denied involvement in a sex and drug abuse investigation clouding the congressional page program in a report aired on ABC News. In 2006, a Washington-based gay activist blogger published an anonymous account from a man claiming he had a sexual encounter with Craig in a bathroom at the city's Union Station.

Craig had said Aug. 28 that he would announce his 2008 re-election plans in September and apologized to his constituents for bringing "a cloud over Idaho." His political career started in 1974 with a seat in the Idaho State Senate. Six years later, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, winning re-election four times before a successful bid for the U.S. Senate in 1990. Craig was re-elected in 1996 and 2002.

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter is now responsible for naming Craig's replacement.

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf and Teddy Davis contributed to this report.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events