- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 25, 2001

The House minority leader yesterday called Rep. Gary A. Condit's statements in his interview with Connie Chung "disturbing and wrong" and said he and fellow Democrats will consider punishing Mr. Condit by removing him from the House intelligence committee.
"I think it fell way short. It all adds to the general perception that politics are no-good and politicians are a bunch of bums," Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an article posted on the newspaper's Web site yesterday.
Mr. Gephardt joined a growing chorus of doubters about Mr. Condit's candor and veracity in his "Prime Time Thursday" interview. It was the California Democrat's first TV interview since he was found to have had a romantic relationship with Chandra Levy, a former government intern who disappeared from her apartment near Dupont Circle on May 1.
Until yesterday, Mr. Gephardt, the top House Democrat, had backed Mr. Condit, answering the inevitable question at recent news conferences by saying that he thought Mr. Condit was cooperating with police and that the focus should be on finding Miss Levy.
Just last Sunday, Mr. Gephardt said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Mr. Condit was an honorable man who can be trusted and that he saw no reason to remove Mr. Condit from the intelligence panel despite concerns by some that he could be vulnerable to blackmail.
But that changed yesterday.
"I didn't hear candor, I didn't hear an apology" in the ABC interview, Mr. Gephardt told the Missouri daily.
Meanwhile yesterday, Miss Levy's parents expressed their disappointment with Mr. Condit's interview.
Chandra's mother, Susan Levy, finds it "most painful" that Mr. Condit accused her of "lying" in his interview with Miss Chung, the Levy family's attorney said.
Interviewed yesterday on the Fox News Channel, Washington lawyer Billy Martin flatly denied statements by Mr. Condit, 53, that Mrs. Levy never asked him whether he was having an affair with her 24-year-old daughter.
Miss Chung noted that Mrs. Levy has said Mr. Condit made that denial to her shortly after her daughter disappeared. "I never lied to Mrs. Levy. She did not ask me that question," Mr. Condit said. "I'm sorry if she misunderstood those conversations."
In separate interviews with People magazine and on KOVR-TV in Modesto, Calif., Mr. Condit said Mrs. Levy mentioned the names of some other people she thought might be involved with Chandra. "My name was not mentioned. She asked me about other members of Congress," Mr. Condit told People.
On Fox, Mr. Martin said, "I don't believe he said that. It's so far from the truth."
The lawyer said he has specifically questioned Mrs. Levy several times in recent months about what she asked and what Mr. Condit said in that May 6 phone call. Mr. Martin said Mrs. Levy told him she had to get up "a lot of nerve" to ask such a delicate question.
On ABC's "Nightline," Mr. Martin said he spoke with the Levys during Mr. Condit's "Prime Time Thursday" interview.
"I can tell you the part that was most painful, that hurt Mrs. Levy very much, is when Gary Condit said she was lying," he said.
Mr. Martin said he went on to ask Mrs. Levy exactly what was said in that conversation with Mr. Condit. According to Mr. Martin, this was Mrs. Levy's answer:
"Yes, I asked point-blank, 'Congressman Condit, are you having an affair with my daughter?' His reply, in quotes: 'I'm only professionally involved with your daughter. I regard her highly. I respect her as a personal friend, and I only have a professional relationship.'"
A focus group of 17 Chicago voters that watched the Condit interview and discussed it on MSNBC was unanimous in not believing the congressman's assertion that he "never lied to Mrs. Levy," according to the Luntz Research Companies, which organized the focus group.
Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican and one of only a few members of Congress who have called for Mr. Condit to resign, told The Washington Times he "wasn't impressed" with the California Democrat's performance and does not believe Mr. Condit helped himself.
"He looked terrible. His answers were terribly evasive and repetitive, and he rambled on and said nothing in order to stall for time," said Mr. Barr, a former federal prosecutor.
Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey yesterday would not say whether he believed Mr. Condit's repeated statements to Miss Chung that he answered truthfully every question from detectives investigating Miss Levy's disappearance.
"He answered every question from Connie Chung. He answered every question we asked him. It is up to others to decide if he was forthcoming," Chief Ramsey told reporters.
Mr. Condit criticized the media for relying on "unnamed sources" in reporting that Mr. Condit did not tell police he had a sexual relationship with Miss Levy until the third of four interviews.
This was "misinformation," he said in the KOVR-TV interview. "I didn't withhold any information. I answered every question every time and gave full details," the congressman said.
Chief Ramsey yesterday declined to say whether Mr. Condit told of an affair with Miss Levy in earlier interviews. But he confirmed that investigators watched the interview to see whether Mr. Condit's words matched earlier words from himself and others.
It would be impossible to know from either the TV interviews or People whether Mr. Condit was sexually involved with Miss Levy. He told People, which reached newsstands yesterday, that she was a "good friend," the same phrase he used months ago when the first questions were asked.
Mr. Condit has disputed the accounts of nearly everyone else, including Miss Levy's parents, her aunt and women who have claimed affairs with him. In the two broadcast interviews, Mr. Condit portrayed one of those women, Ann Marie Smith, as fabricating stories for money.
The flight attendant, who says Mr. Condit's lawyer tried to get her to sign an affidavit denying an affair with him, called the congressman a "pathological liar" in an interview on Fox.
Jim Keary contributed to this article.


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