- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 26, 2001

Rep. Gary A. Condit blames questioner Connie Chung of ABC News for denying him an opportunity in their interview to tell the nation how "saddened and heartbroken" he is over the disappearance of former federal intern Chandra Ann Levy.
"I sat there the whole time with Connie Chung waiting for her to ask me something other than a sex question," the California Democrat told Newsweek's Michael Isikoff in an interview Friday, excerpts of which were posted on the Internet. Mr. Condit said that Mrs. Chung "didn't seem to be too interested in what I had to say."
"There were things that I would have liked to have gotten into that I couldn't get into. … My heart goes out to the Levys," the embattled congressman said in the Newsweek interview, which lasted an hour and 45 minutes.
But Mr. Isikoff wrote that Mr. Condit's "expressions of sympathy and regret over Levy's fate evolved into anger and sarcasm directed primarily at the news media for turning the case into a 'soap opera to keep their ratings up.'"
Lawyers and media analysts interviewed yesterday said Mr. Condit's complaints represent further attempts to portray himself as a victim, a strategy they say has failed miserably.
"He is not a victim. He has victimized a family," Ralph Lothin, former chief counsel for the House Ethics Committee, said on "Fox News Live."
Meanwhile, in Modesto, Calif., two dozen protesters gathered outside Mr. Condit's district office at lunchtime, shouting for him to step down.
"If he can cheat on his own commitment to his family, how's he going to treat the community?" housewife Christine Lagow said. "Especially now, after his interview [with Mrs. Chung], there's even more support for him to resign than there ever was before."
The Modesto Bee newspaper, which first called for Mr. Condit's resignation Aug. 12, repeated that demand Friday, saying he had given voters no reason to trust him.
Julian Epstein, the Democrats' chief counsel on the House Judiciary Committee during President Clinton's impeachment hearings, said in a Fox interview that Mr. Condit is "morally bankrupt" and his behavior "odious."
Both he and Mr. Lothin said House Democratic leader Richard A. Gephardt's publicly raised doubts Friday about Mr. Condit's candor and truthfulness could signal an invitation for the House Ethics Committee to investigate the congressman.
Mr. Condit made "disturbing and wrong" statements to Mrs. Chung in their half-hour session on ABC's "Prime Time Thursday," Mr. Gephard told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Missouri Democrat said the party's lawmakers would consider punishing Mr. Condit by removing him from the House Intelligence Committee.
The strong comments by the House's top Democrat "spell really serious trouble for Gary Condit," Mr. Epstein said.
Newsweek's Mr. Isikoff said that when he talked to Mr. Condit, the congressman was "frustrated and disheartened" about the negative reaction to the interview with Mrs. Chung. Watched by an estimated 23.6 million U.S. households, it was the largest viewing audience for a news program in two years.
If his feelings of sadness and sympathy for the Levy family haven't come through, Mr. Condit said, it may be because he has failed to sufficiently show it.
"I'm not one of those guys who wears his emotions on his sleeve," Mr. Condit said.
"I'm not a sappy guy." But, he added, "I hurt inside."
His appearance on "Prime Time" was Mr. Condit's first broadcast interview since Miss Levy, 24, with whom he acknowledged being "very close," disappeared May 1 from her apartment near Dupont Circle. As in all other interviews granted in recent days, Mr. Condit, 53, repeatedly refused to tell Newsweek whether he had a sexual relationship with Miss Levy.
"The press is not entitled to know everything about my private life or the private life of any other member of Congress. You're not the church, and you're not the court," Mr. Condit told Mr. Isikoff.
His Washington lawyer, Abbe Lowell, made almost identical statements Thursday night on ABC's "Nightline" and Friday night on CNN's "Larry King Live" to explain why Mr. Condit would not discuss the nature of his relationship with Miss Levy.
Commentators criticized Mr. Condit for telling Mrs. Chung he would not disclose details of his relationship with Miss Levy out of respect for his family and because of a "specific request from the Levy family." Billy Martin, attorney for the missing intern's parents, Susan and Robert Levy of Modesto, said later Thursday night on "Nightline" that they did not object to Mr. Condit's providing such details.
But Mr. Condit and his legal advisers apparently decided to take Mr. Martin literally Aug. 21 when he said of the Levys on CNN: "They really don't want to hear anything about the relationship. They don't want to know how he felt about Chandra. They don't want to know how Chandra felt about him. Those are issues that they'd like to put behind them."
On "Larry King Live," Mr. Lowell said, "Congressman Condit was not going to go into the details of his relationship with Chandra … no matter what Billy Martin said."
*This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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