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Idaho Senator Larry Craig Busted in a Gay Sex Sting. Two Reporters Have Details…

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," August 28, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated

MICHELLE MALKIN, GUEST HOST: Another sex scandal rocks Capitol Hill. That's our top story tonight. Republican Senator Larry Craig from Idaho has pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge stemming from a recent incident in the men’s room of the Minneapolis Airport. An undercover police officer says the senator made a sexual advance toward him. Here's what Senator Craig said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: In June, I overreacted and made a poor decision. While I was not I involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis Airport or anywhere else, I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away. I did not seek any council either from an attorney, staff, friends, or family. That was a mistake. And I deeply regret it.

For eight months leading up to June 11, my family and I have been relentlessly and viciously harassed by the Idaho statesman. If you saw the article today you will know why. Let me be clear. I am not gay. I never have been gay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALKIN: This comes after years of allegations that the married senator is hiding his homosexuality. A political note — Senator Craig threw his support behind an amendment to his state's constitution banning gay marriage and civil unions. And his record includes a number of other votes against gay rights.

Joining us now from Washington, A.B. Stoddard, a political reporter for the Hill. And from Boise, Idaho, Dan Popkey, a reporter for The Idaho Statesman, who wrote a piece on the Larry Craig controversy in today's paper.

Dan, I want to start with you. You heard Senator Craig call out your paper even though the genesis of this was roll call initially breaking the story about the Minnesota incident. What's your reaction to his laying blame at your newspaper's feet?

DAN POPKEY, IDAHO STATEMAN REPORTER: Well, let me just say that we were very careful about this story. We didn't publish it when the blogger first raised these allegations in the fall as a lot of other media did.

We worked on this for five months. And we decided we weren't ready to run a story after we interviewed the senator in May and he denied all homosexual conduct ever. Only when he plead guilty did this become a story. That's what tipped the scales for us. And we were very careful. And he knows that.

MALKIN: Right.

POPKEY: He's fighting for his life. And he's a tough politician. And I'm not really surprised that he's going to try and hold on here.

MALKIN: Now you did do a meticulous investigation. Five months, you interviewed some 300 people. What to you was the most damning evidence against Craig's long time denials of this kind of behavior?

POPKEY: Well, I think that the guilty plea is the most damning evidence without question. But on our end, we were able to confirm and were able to look in the eye and verify the bona fides of another accuser, who we, unfortunately, have to keep anonymous.

But he said that he had sex with the senator in another toilet in Washington at Union Station. And that being a similar allegation as to the — similar to the one he plead guilty over, that's again what prompted us to publish the story today.

MALKIN: Right, Amy...

POPKEY: I mean, I can go on in more detail about other things we found, but that's the big thing.

MALKIN: Right. And of course, people can find your report online at The Idaho Statesman website.

A.B., want to go to you real quickly here. You're on the Hill. What was the reaction to this defiant non-apology apology by Senator Craig?

A.B. STODDARD, "THE HILL" REPORTER: Well, what you're seeing now is Republicans in the Congress searching for some distance immediately from this. You saw a statement today from the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying that they are taking this — you know, this is a serious matter and it'll be investigated.

He has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. And the ink is now dry for Senator Craig. It really doesn't matter if he wants to declare war against The Idaho Statesman or not. He pleaded guilty. And he said he was guilty of committing wrongdoing for the misdemeanor charge. It's now a kind of permanent stain against him.

And so, his colleagues in the Congress and his constituents at home are going to find it hard to believe that he overreacted in June as he said in his statement in a panic since he actually came back in August to plead guilty. And I guess they're also going to be wondering why he kept it a secret all summer from his family and his friends as well, which he admitted today.

MALKIN: Right. Dan, back to you. You published this article. It appeared this morning. What has been the public reaction? Have you gauged how constituents are receiving his justifications for what he did?

POPKEY: Well, let me be honest with you. Here in little Boise, Idaho, the attention that this story has gotten has surprised me to the point that I haven't really been off of the phone with folks like yourself and your producers all across the country to talk to many ordinary Idahoans.

At this event, however, there were at the senator's statement, there were a lot of Republican folks. The chairman of the party was here. They didn't know what he was going to say. I think they are shocked. They have heard his denials going back most publicly to 1982 and the page scandal when he preemptively said hey, I didn't engage in sexual conduct with any pages.

MALKIN: Right. Explain that a little bit more. Tease that out a little bit more for our audience for background.

POPKEY: OK. In '82, he was a freshman senator. CBS News went on the air June 30 of '82 with an interview withLeroy Williams, who was a page from Arkansas...

MALKIN: And who was how old?

POPKEY: ...accused — he was 17 years old.

And Leroy Williams made these allegations. The next day, Senator Craig — and he was alone among the 534 colleagues in the Congress issued a preemptive statement saying I didn't engage in this conduct with any page.

That has prompted a lot of talk about it in the subsequent years. I should say Leroy Williams was determined to be by the Ethics Committee, by which was led by Joe Califano, a Democrat, to have made it all up. And he recanted.

But that's where the — that's how far back Craig's denials in a public way go. But we found in our reporting that in 1967, as far back as 1967, he was alleged to have made a homosexual advance to a potential fraternity pledge at the University of Idaho, where he was student body president and president of the Delta Chi house.

You know, I talked to that person. You know, he says he thinks Craig hit on him. Craig said no, I didn't. I never hit on anyone.

MALKIN: Right.

POPKEY: And again, we didn't publish that until his guilty plea.

MALKIN: Right. You're very careful about that.

A.B., we have just a little bit of time left. Where do we go from here? Do you see an ethics investigation? You got Republicans and Democrats as you've mentioned both clamoring for it now.

STODDARD: Well, you know, I think it's not so politically wise for the Democrats to do so. I think they just wanted to hang out there, but you're going to see Republicans definitely scrambling to keep the distance between themselves and Senator Craig. And I imagine they'll be many quiet conversations taking place where they're urging him not to run again.

I don't think he's going to run again. I think he's given sort of too much away in a statement he made today.

MALKIN: Right.

STODDARD: I think it's too incriminating what's happened with the guilty plea already.

MALKIN: Well, we'll continue to follow the story. Thank you both.

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