In reporting on Sen. Larry Craig's guilty plea on disorderly conduct charges, the nightly network news broadcasts and The New York Times all ignored Craig's positions on legislation concerning gay and lesbian rights, including voting against legislation to ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
In reporting on Sen. Larry Craig's (R-ID) August 8 guilty plea on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges following his June 11 arrest during an investigation of “lewd conduct in the main men's public restroom” at a Minnesota airport, the nightly network news broadcasts and The New York Times all ignored Craig's record on legislation concerning gay and lesbian rights. Craig voted for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and, in 2006, voted to cut off debate on a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. He also voted against a 1996 bill prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, which failed by one vote in the Senate.
Roll Call first reported Craig's arrest on August 27. According to the article: “On Aug. 8, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in the Hennepin County District Court. He paid more than $500 in fines and fees, and a 10-day jail sentence was stayed. He also was given one year of probation with the court that began on Aug. 8.” Roll Call also provided details of the arrest report:
According to the incident report, Sgt. Dave Karsnia was working as a plainclothes officer on June 11 investigating civilian complaints regarding sexual activity in the men's public restroom in which Craig was arrested.
Airport police previously had made numerous arrests in the men's restroom of the Northstar Crossing in the Lindbergh Terminal in connection with sexual activity.
Karsnia entered the bathroom at noon that day and about 13 minutes after taking a seat in a stall, he stated he could see “an older white male with grey hair standing outside my stall.”
The man, who lingered in front of the stall for two minutes, was later identified as Craig.
“I could see Craig look through the crack in the door from his position. Craig would look down at his hands, 'fidget' with his fingers, and then look through the crack into my stall again. Craig would repeat this cycle for about two minutes,” the report states.
Craig then entered the stall next to Karsnia's and placed his roller bag against the front of the stall door.
“My experience has shown that individuals engaging in lewd conduct use their bags to block the view from the front of their stall,” Karsnia stated in his report. “From my seated position, I could observe the shoes and ankles of Craig seated to the left of me.”
Craig was wearing dress pants with black dress shoes.
“At 1216 hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct. Craig tapped his toes several times and moved his foot closer to my foot. I moved my foot up and down slowly. While this was occurring, the male in the stall to my right was still present. I could hear several unknown persons in the restroom that appeared to use the restroom for its intended use. The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area,” the report states.
Craig then proceeded to swipe his hand under the stall divider several times, and Karsnia noted in his report that “I could ... see Craig had a gold ring on his ring finger as his hand was on my side of the stall divider.”
However, The New York Times did not note Craig's record on gay rights issues in its August 28 article on Craig's arrest. Similarly, Craig's anti-gay positions went unmentioned on the August 27 broadcasts of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson, NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams, and the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.
By contrast, an August 28 CNN.com article noted his votes on gay and lesbian issues and reported that “Craig's voting record has earned him top ratings from social conservative groups.” According to the article:
In recent years, Craig's voting record has earned him top ratings from social conservative groups such as the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council.
He has supported a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, telling his colleagues that it was “important for us to stand up now and protect traditional marriage, which is under attack by a few unelected judges and litigious activists.”
In 1996, Craig also voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition to same-sex marriages and prevents states from being forced to recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples legally performed in other states.
Craig also has opposed expanding the federal hate crimes law to cover offenses motivated by anti-gay bias and, in 1996, voted against a bill that would have outlawed employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, which failed by a single vote in the Senate.
The Los Angeles Times reported on August 28:
But the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force issued a statement calling attention to Craig's support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and his opposition to legislation that would expand the federal hate crime law to cover violent acts based on a victim's sex, sexual orientation, sexual identity or disability.
From the August 27 broadcast of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:
KATE SNOW (guest anchor): We learned today that a Republican member of the Senate, Larry Craig of Idaho, was arrested back in June and has now pled guilty to a disorderly conduct charge. The newspaper Roll Call reports Craig was arrested at the Minneapolis airport and accused of lewd conduct. His office calls it a misunderstanding, and late today, Craig said he should not have pled guilty.
From the August 27 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:
BRIAN WILLIAMS (anchor): There is late world today that Senator Larry Craig, a Republican from Idaho, was arrested in June by a plainclothes police officer in Minnesota for what's being called lewd conduct in the presence of a plainclothes police officer in a men's room. That was at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call obtained the arrest report. The senator later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct. He paid more than $500 in fines and was given one year of probation.
But a short time ago this evening, Senator Craig issued a statement saying, “At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions. I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct.” Craig's statement goes on to say, quote, “I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty.” Close quote.
From the August 27 broadcast of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:
KATIE COURIC (anchor): Meanwhile, there is word tonight that Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho pleaded guilty this month to disorderly conduct charges. The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call says Craig was arrested at the Minneapolis airport by police investigating complaints of lewd conduct. But tonight, the senator says he told the police his actions were misconstrued, and he denies doing anything wrong. Craig was fined $1,000.