Idaho senator denies claims, accuses paper of indulging in “‘tabloid journalism’
BOISE, Idaho Eight men say they either had sex with Sen. Larry Craig or were targets of sexual advances by the Idaho lawmaker at various times during his political career, a newspaper reported Sunday, Dec. 2.
One of the men is the former escort whose allegations disgraced the Rev. Ted Haggard, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Idaho Statesman reported.
The newspaper identified four men and reported details of the encounters they say involved Craig. It also reported the accounts of four other men who did not agree to be identified but who described sexual advances or encounters involving the conservative Republican, who opposes same-sex marriage and has a strong record against gay rights.
Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after being accused by an undercover officer of soliciting sex at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and later called a news conference to deny that he is gay.
The newspaper acknowledged that its report was not based on definitive evidence but said it also found no evidence to disprove the accounts of the four identified men. It said it reviewed the senator’s travel records, which put him where the sex is alleged to have taken place, and did background checks on those making the allegations.
Craig and members of his staff declined to comment to the newspaper.
But in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press on Sunday, the senator said the newspaper’s report was “completely false” and he accused the paper of careless journalism.
“It is unfortunate that the Idaho Statesman has chosen to continue to lower itself to the standards of what can best be described as tabloid journalism,” Craig said in the statement.
“Despite the fact the Idaho Statesman has decided to pursue its own agenda and print these falsehoods without any facts to back them up, I won’t let this paper’s attempt to malign my name stop me from continuing my work to serve the people of Idaho.”
The report is the Statesman’s latest on allegations about Craig’s sexual background since his June arrest in an airport men’s room sex sting operation was reported in late August.
Statesman Editor Vicki Gowler said the newspaper spent several months checking the backgrounds and details of the men’s stories.
“We believe it’s important for you to know what we’ve learned and to hear the men’s own words,” Gowler said.
Two of the identified men and one of the unidentified men told the newspaper they had sex with Craig.
One of the men identified in the report, Mike Jones, 50, described as a former male escort, was the focus of the sex scandal involving Haggard, the disgraced leader of Colorado’s New Life Church.
Jones said Craig paid him $200 for sex in late 2004 or early 2005. The encounter took place at a studio apartment in downtown Denver, Jones said.
Jones told the Statesman that he did not recognize Craig until his arrest made the news. The newspaper reported that Jones went on the record after Craig appeared in a television news report in August to address the arrest and his future in politics.
Jones has written a book about his experience with Haggard and acknowledged to the Statesman that his allegation about Craig might help sales. A message left for Jones by The Associated Press through his publisher Sunday evening was not immediately returned.
Current phone numbers could not be found for the three other men identified in the Statesman’s report.
Amid pressure from top GOP leaders in Washington, Craig announced his intent to resign from the Senate. He later changed his mind, deciding to finish out his term, which expires in January 2009. He is also appealing in Minnesota courts to have his guilty plea overturned.
The undercover police officer who arrested Craig said the senator moved his foot next to the officer’s foot and tapped it in a way that indicated he wanted sex. He also alleged the senator sent a signal by swiping his hand under the divider between men’s room stalls.
Craig has said the officer misconstrued those motions.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 7, 2007