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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Senator Says He Isn't Gay After Bathroom Incident

BOISE, Idaho -- Republican U.S. Senator Larry Craig said Tuesday that he was not gay and had made a mistake in pleading guilty to disorderly conduct after he was arrested in a men's toilet at a Minnesota airport in June.

First elected to the Senate in 1990, the Idaho senator was arrested by a plainclothes police officer investigating complaints of lewd conduct in a men's public restroom at airport.

"I am not gay, I never have been gay," Craig told a news conference in Boise, Idaho. He apologized to the people of Idaho for what he said was a "cloud" over the state because of the incident. "I did nothing wrong," he said.

According to a police report cited by Washington newspaper Roll Call, the police investigator, who was in an adjoining stall, arrested Craig on June 11 after the senator made gestures with his feet and hand that are common signals used by men soliciting sex.

Craig, 62, a married father of three, denied any sexual intent and said the whole incident was a misunderstanding.

A grim-faced Craig, whose wife, Suzanne, stood silently by his side at the news conference, appeared defiant in the face of the furor over the incident.

"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," he read from a prepared statement. "I did not seek any counsel, either from an attorney, staff, friends, or family. That was a mistake, and I deeply regret it."

The conservative Republican, who has spoken out against gay rights and same-sex marriage, said he would announce next month, as planned, whether to seek re-election next year.

Republican leaders requested a Senate ethics panel investigation and said they were "examining other aspects of the case to determine if additional action is required."

Craig said he acted hastily in accepting the guilty plea on Aug. 8 because of what he called a "witch hunt" by the Idaho Statesman newspaper, which has been investigating rumors that he had sexual encounters with other men.

"In pleading guilty, I overreacted in Minneapolis, because of the stress of the Idaho Statesman's investigation and the rumors it has fueled," he said.

The three-term senator has resigned as Idaho chairman of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign.

"It reminds us of the fact that people who are elected to public office continue to disappoint," Romney told CNBC television. "And we've seen disappointment in the White House, we've seen it in the Senate, we've seen it in Congress. And frankly, it's disgusting."

Kirk Sullivan, chairman of the Idaho Republican party who said he had known Craig since the mid-1970s, attended the announcement. "We're going to support Senator Craig to the best of our ability," he said. "He knows he made an improper judgment. He is on the right course to correct it."