When Senator Larry Craig came out to face the public, the press and the music yesterday in Idaho, he declared "I'm not gay and have never been gay." He even went off his prepared statement to repeat the assertion. The second time he made it, here's how it went.
In his written statement, Craig said this:
"I should not have kept this arrest to myself, and should have told my family and friends about it. I wasn't eager to share this failure, but I should have done so anyway."
But when Craig spoke the words, he said this (emphasis added):
"I should not have kept this arrest to myself, and should have told my family and friends about it. I wasn't eager to share this failure, but I should have done so anyway because I'm not gay."
Senator Craig, flanked by his wife of 24 years, seemed to be less embarrassed by the idea that he was caught in a public bathroom allegedly making lewd advances, and more embarrassed by the idea that anyone would think he's actually… gay. It's almost as if he wouldn't have been upset if only he'd been accused of making lewd advances toward a woman. That might make him a lech and a cheat but definitely not gay.
Not that there's anything wrong with it, as the old Seinfeld episode used to say.
Allegations that Craig is a homosexual have followed him for at least 25 years. In 1982, CBS News broke stories on the Congressional page sex scandal. In the first story, an unidentified page said he'd been propositioned by male members of Congress. Though the story didn't implicate then-Representative Craig, nor any member of Congress by name, Craig immediately issued angry denials of any involvement… the only member to do so.
Six months after the unfortunate page stories and Craig's response, he got engaged. Today he's married, has three grown children and nine grandkids.
Why has he appeared so horrified for so many years that someone might think he's attracted to men? Part of the answer lies in his constituency. He's been elected to five House terms and three Senate terms by loyal voters in the conservative state of Idaho. His public life and stance is the antithesis of gay. He has often voted against gay rights, and last year supported a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Idaho.
All of that made Craig a prime target of gay activists who are bent on "outing" politicians they say are "in the closet" but (say the activists) cast hypocritical votes that fight their own private feelings. Craig has been on their hit list since the Foley scandal last year, if not before.
Gay or not, coming from a state like Idaho, and with a voting record like his, Craig knows that he can be harmed politically by even a hint that he's not a he-man.
Not that there's anything wrong with it.