Scandal-hit senator urged to quit
A US Republican senator who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after his arrest in a men’s toilet has come under increasing pressure to resign.
Idaho Senator Larry Craig, 62, has said he should not have pleaded guilty, having in fact done nothing wrong.
But three fellow Republicans have urged him to step down. Among them was John McCain, who warned of more harm to the Republicans’ already “tarnished” image.
The White House also said it was “disappointed” by the scandal.
Mr Craig was arrested in June at Minneapolis-St Paul airport by an undercover police officer investigating complaints of lewd behaviour in men’s toilets.
Republican leaders have referred the matter to the Senate ethics committee, which will consider whether Mr Craig has broken rules on conduct.
The senator, a married father-of-three, denied any wrongdoing at a news conference on Tuesday and insisted: “I am not gay. I never have been gay.”
Mr Craig has a conservative record in the Senate and has voted against gay rights and same-sex marriage legislation.
The Republican Party appears to have been quick to distance itself from Mr Craig, as observers speculated on the likely impact of the scandal on conservative voters.
Republican leaders announced on Wednesday that Mr Craig had agreed temporarily to stand down from three Senate committees.
“This is not a decision we take lightly, but we believe this is in the best interest of the Senate until this situation is resolved by the ethics committee,” a statement issued by Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and others said.
Speaking on the NBC network’s Tonight Show, Arizona Senator John McCain said: “It harms our reputation with the American people, which is already pretty tarnished.”
Republican Senator Norman Coleman, of Minnesota, called for him to stand down, saying: “Senator Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming to a senator.”
Michigan Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra also urged his resignation, saying Mr Craig “represents the Republican Party”.
Spokesman Scott Stanzel said in a statement that the White House was “disappointed in the matter”.
“We hope that it will be resolved quickly, as that would be in the best interests of the Senate and the people of Idaho,” he said.
Mr Craig has already resigned from the 2008 presidential campaign of Mitt Romney, former Republican governor of Massachusetts.
In a statement issued on Monday, Mr Craig confirmed he had pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct three weeks ago but said that he should not have done so without taking legal advice.
The police had misconstrued his actions, he said, but he had pleaded guilty in order to handle the matter “quickly and expeditiously”.
According to a police report, Mr Craig entered a cubicle next to the undercover policeman and tapped his foot in a way that the officer recognised “as a signal often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct”.
Mr Craig then gestured under the cubicle divider, at which point the police officer identified himself and arrested him.
The furore comes only weeks after fellow Republican David Vitter admitted he had committed a “very serious sin” after his phone number was linked to an alleged Washington prostitution ring.