Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'Idaho Statesman' Editor and Reporter Defend Craig Probe

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'Idaho Statesman' Editor and Reporter Defend Craig Probe

Article excerpt

Vicki Gowler was just sitting down to dinner with her mother and extended family in central Illinois Monday night when the phone rang.

The editor of The Idaho Statesman in Boise had been on vacation for several days, hoping to get some relief from the daily news grind some 1,500 miles away.

But once she picked up the receiver, that relief ended.

On the other end was Publisher Mi-Ai Parrish with word that Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) had been arrested and pleaded guilty to charges stemming from alleged sexual advances in an airport bathroom. The same Larry Craig the Statesman had been investigating for months and had found to be linked to at least one other sexual encounter in a public bathroom with a man, along with several accusations of at least questionable behavior toward other men.

After some quick discussion, the editor decided to run the paper's lengthy investigation by veteran political reporter Dan Popkey, a tale of Craig's alleged bathroom encounter with a man in Washington, D.C.'s Union Station, as well as other alleged signs of come-ons to men.

"We felt that that was enough, that we needed to publish and show readers what we knew," Gowler said by cell phone Wednesday. "There wasn't a lot of discussion, they were waiting for me to weigh in and nobody disputed it."

The result was Popkey's in-depth story of Craig allegedly meeting a man in the bathroom for oral sex, as well as other examples of alleged improper behavior. The paper had launched the investigation last fall after a local blogger posted an item claiming Craig had had secret sexual activities with several anonymous men.

The Statesman made some news at the time by not reporting the blog item, while at least four other Idaho papers, and a handful of national outlets, did. "We did not because it was based on anonymous sources, the senator denied it and on the basis of that we wrote nothing," Gowler, editor since 2005, recalled. "We got a little bit of a pushback at the time and I decided we should spend some time to look into it."

She put Popkey, a 23-year Statesman veteran, on the story, in which he dug up several examples of alleged improper behavior, including the Union Station incident. In May, he confronted Craig in a sit-down interview, during which the senator denied everything. That convinced the paper to hold off still. …

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