Sen. Larry Craig's "I'm not gay" declaration met with disdain Wednesday from gay activists, many of whom knew for nearly a year -- long before his recent arrest -- of allegations that the conservative Idaho Republican solicited sex from men in public bathrooms.
They view his case as a prime example of hypocrisy -- a man who furtively engaged in same-sex liaisons while consistently opposing gay-rights measures as a politician.
" He may very well not think of himself as being gay, and these are just urges that he has," said Matt Foreman of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. " It's the tragedy of homophobia. People create these walls that separate themselves from who they really are."
The activist, Mike Rogers, went public last October with allegations that Craig engaged in sexual encounters with at least three men, including one who said he had sex with Craig twice at Washington's Union Station.
The Idaho Statesman went even further back into Craig's life, talking to other men who claimed they were solicited by him.
It also mentioned a scandal in 1982, in which a male page reported having sex with three congressmen, and Craig -- although not named by the youth -- issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.
Rogers noted that some politicians, when confronted with evidence about same-sex encounters, have acknowledged their homosexuality -- such as Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and the late Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass.).
Others persist in denial, and Rogers contends they are fair game for exposure if they vote against gay-rights causes.
''I'd love for Larry Craig to come out and be honest with the people of Idaho and run as a Senate candidate and see if the Republican Party is the big tent they claim to be,'' Rogers said.
Craig's political support was eroding by the hour Wednesday as fellow Republicans in Congress called for him to resign and party leaders pushed him unceremoniously from senior posts.
The White House expressed disappointment, and Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) both joined calls for Craig to resign.
''My opinion is that when you plead guilty to a crime, you shouldn't serve. That's not a moral stand. That's not a holier-than-thou. It's just a factual situation," McCain said.