BOISE, Idaho – Sen. Larry Craig was named Saturday night to the Idaho Hall of Fame, marking the Republican lawmaker's first ceremonial appearance back in his home state since his arrest in an airport bathroom sex sting became public in August.
Craig, 62, seated near the front of the banquet room, received polite applause and a few encouraging hoots when he was introduced.
"I hope in a very sincere way that the attention that's been brought to me has not lessened the honor you receive," Craig told the other nominees and about 200 people who attended the dinner.
He was chosen for induction last spring, well before his arrest at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport in June. Among the other inductees are Chris Petersen, coach of the Boise State football team, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, who is vying to replace Craig in 2008.
Before he was honored, Craig entered the Boise convention center through its front doors, accompanied by family members including his wife, Suzanne Craig, and mother, Dorothy Craig. They walked through a crowd of about a dozen photographers, TV cameras and reporters.
"I'm doing very well," Craig said, responding to a question. "I've got my whole family with me."
Before the event, Michael Ritz, an Idaho Hall of Fame board member, said he had been bombarded with calls from national media outlets wanting to know whether they could set up cameras at the $50-a-head function. And while even some Republican Party members suggested withdrawing or delaying Craig's nomination until another year, Ritz said the 12-member board opted to go ahead.
"We thought, 'It's kind of going back on your word,"' he said before the event. "Once a person has been sent a letter and voted into the Hall of Fame, it would be kind of like breaking a promise."
Idaho's senior Republican lawmaker pleaded guilty in August to disorderly conduct, then unsuccessfully tried to withdraw his plea after the episode became painfully public.
He initially said he intended to resign but now vows to serve out the last 15 months of his term.
The master of ceremonies for the event, former Republican Lt. Gov. David Leroy, acknowledged that attention on the senator and his arrest had raised the profile of the private, nonprofit Idaho Hall of Fame. Since 1995, it has inducted some 113 members, but before 2007 hadn't made any new nominations for four years.
"As the cameras outside testify, this banquet is a hot ticket," Leroy joked.
He then offered a quote that he attributed to actor Brad Pitt on the subject of fame: "Fame's a bitch, man."
Craig later quipped: "My fame of the last month, I would liken to the definition Brad Pitt gave it."