Conservative senator in America's great toe-tapping sex scandal resigns

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An undercover police sting in a public toilet at a Minneapolis airport has ended the political career of one of the Republican party's most socially conservative senators.

With his wife, Suzanne, and two of his three grown-up children at his side, Larry Craig accepted the inevitable fate since his foot-tapping under a toilet stall partition became headline news. Still protesting that his plea of guilty to disorderly conduct was a ghastly mistake, he told assembled media that he would be quitting the Senate at the end of the month.

He said: "I have little control over what people choose to believe but clearly my name is important to me and my family is so very important also. Having said that, to pursue my legal options as I continue to serve Idaho, would be an unwanted and unfair distraction from my job and for my Senate colleagues."

The incident occurred in June when Senator Craig is alleged to have entered an adjacent stall to Sergeant Dave Karsnia, and tapped his foot so as to knock it against the police officer's. When the senator also ran his hand under the partition to attract the officer's attention, Sergeant Karsnia laid his police badge on the floor and made his arrest. When his guilty plea and tapes of his interview emerged this week, the senator's assertion that he has a "wide stance" when using the toilet attracted ridicule, and further allegations that he had engaged in oral sex in a Washington toilet surfaced, too.

Scared of a repetition of the scandal last year of congressman Mark Foley, who was accused of making advances to underage male pages, the Republican party cut the Senator loose.

The party's grandees had fallen over themselves to brand his conduct – in a toilet that the Minneapolis police described as a notorious hang-out for men seeking gay sex – as "disgusting" and "disappointing".

Gay groups, too, had shown little willingness to rush to the defence of a senator whose record in opposing same-sex marriage and the extension of hate crime legislation has been second to none.

The sting, which led to Mr Craig's arrest long before any overt sexual advance was made, attracted little condemnation.

Sean Kosfsky, policy director at the Triangle Foundation in Michigan, said it and other gay groups had some success in cutting such stings but forces still used them sporadically.

"There can be a political motivation near an election time but, more important, it raises a lot of money," he said, citing a year-long Detroit area sting that netted $2.4m (£1.2m) in fines in 2001.

Mr Kosfsky said that police can catch a lot of so-called sex offenders without having to deal with any violent criminals.