- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 25, 2001

Rep. Gary A. Condit's televised interview Thursday drew criticism from some of his constituents in Modesto, Calif., who faulted him for evading questions and sticking to a prepared script.
But that doesn't mean they wouldn't vote for him again.
"I personally think he didn't do a very good job of breaking his silence," said Amber Fletcher, a waitress at Applebee's who watched the interview with her boyfriend. "He sounded scripted, and he just repeated the same exact thing. He should have said more."
Still, Miss Fletcher says she will probably vote for the California Democrat if he runs for re-election in November 2002.
"I'm kind of disappointed in him, but I'd vote for him," she said. "He's been a good congressman."
Those sentiments were echoed by the crowd at Barbara's Beauty Shop in Modesto yesterday, where the Condit interview with Connie Chung was the No. 1 topic of discussion, according to owner Barbara Whitesell.
"That's all we've been talking about," she said. "Everyone is disappointed in him."
But when she asked the half-dozen customers and stylists whether they would vote for him again, the response was unanimous: They would.
"People say he's made mistakes, but he's been a good congressman. You can't take that away from him," Mrs. Whitesell said.
Mr. Condit's appearance on ABC-TV's "Prime Time Thursday" came as part of a campaign to salvage his political career after months of intense speculation about his role in the disappearance of Chandra Levy, a Washington intern with whom he reportedly had an affair.
Earlier this week, he sent out 200,000 letters to his constituents asking for their support and suggesting that Miss Levy, 24, might have been the victim of a serial killer.
His efforts to rehabilitate his image apparently are having an effect.
Despite revelations about his extramarital affairs and speculation that he might have been involved in Miss Levy's disappearance, some Modesto residents said they were willing to give him another chance.
A 15-member panel of local residents convened by the Modesto Bee to watch the televised interview gave Mr. Condit mixed reviews. Four of the nine panelists who voted in the last election said they would support him again if he runs for reelection.
Not everyone in his district was as forgiving. "The guy is like dirt under my fingernails," said Charles Byrd, who sat on the panel. "I want to scrape him out."
The Bee, which called for Mr. Condit's resignation earlier this month, blasted him for sticking to "a strategy of spin and denial" during the interview.
"After months of watching him stall and stonewall, Condit's weasel-like performance on Thursday was terribly disappointing," said the Bee in yesterday's editorial. "He had an opportunity to come clean, but instead rolled through the dirt of duplicity some more."
The newspaper, the largest in Mr. Condit's California Central Valley home district, again called on the congressman to resign.
"Condit thinks he deserves a pass," said the editorial. "We still think the people of the 18th Congressional District deserve his resignation."
Melissa Proietti, a Bee panelist, compared Mr. Condit's conduct to that of President Clinton. "He blames everyone, but he never accepts any responsibility for himself," she said.
"I think he saw the president get away with it and thinks he can get away with it, too," she said.


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