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Gary Condit is Interviewed By KOVR

Aired August 24, 2001 - 12:30   ET



REP. GARY CONDIT (D), CALIFORNIA: I'm very distraught and very upset and concerned that she's missing, and it's been four months. I mean, I don't know how the parents feel, but I'm very concerned about that -- heartbroken that she hasn't shown up in four months. After all the effort that myself and many other people have made, she still disappeared after four months. It's very disheartening.


COSSACK: Today on BURDEN OF PROOF: It is the interview you've never seen in its entirety: Congressman Gary Condit's hometown interview.


CONDIT: I answered all their questions. I didn't withhold any information. I didn't slow down the process. As a matter of fact, I probably provided more information, been more cooperative than anyone else in Washington D.C.


ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF with Roger Cossack.

COSSACK: Hello and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF.

It has been a media cause celebre for the summer of 2001: cameras staked outside the Modesto home of Chandra Levy's parents; Washington journalists chasing a California congressman through the halls of Capitol Hill.

Since the disappearance of the former Bureau of Prisons intern, Gary Condit has not discussed the case with the media until now. Now, last evening, ABC News rolled out a 30-minute interview with Condit. But he has also spoken with reporters at "People" magazine and "Newsweek" magazine.

But today, right now, we are going to show you Condit's entire interview with reporter Jodi Hernandez of CNN affiliate KOVR, which was given immediately following the Connie Chung interview.

In it, the congressman discussed his constituents in Modesto and his communication with Washington investigators.


JODI HERNANDEZ, KOVR REPORTER: First of all, Congressman, I know you've had a long day. You've just gone through 30 minutes, I understand, with Connie Chung. How are you feeling?

CONDIT: Well, I'm feeling fine. Thirty minutes goes by real fast, though.

HERNANDEZ: And how are you feeling about how the day has progressed so far?

CONDIT: It's progressing fine. We were able to talk to some people. And so I think that's been positive.

HERNANDEZ: Congressman, I've been on this story since it broke. And the past few days I have spent out in the field talking to constituents. I'm hearing from the constituents here that they feel betrayed. A lot of folks feel betrayed. Do you feel like you have let your constituents down?

CONDIT: Well, I haven't betrayed anyone. I've done everything that I can do to be helpful in this case, in terms of being cooperative with law enforcement. I have met with law enforcement people on four separate occasions. Washington, D.C. has a little unusual device there, where they have dual jurisdiction.

So when you meet with the Metropolitan Police Department, you end up meeting with the Justice Department and the FBI and the federal prosecutors. So I met with all those people. I had four separate interviews -- and consistent on every one of those interviews. And I let them search my house. And I did a polygraph test.

HERNANDEZ: However, Congressman, you say you have cooperated. What everyone wants to know is: Why, then, did it take you three interviews to tell police that you had an affair with Chandra Levy?

CONDIT: Well, first of all, you are using unnamed sources by saying that it took three interviews. Each interview I answered every question that was asked of me. I told every detail that I could tell about my relationship with Chandra. So you are talking about unnamed sources identifying the third interview. We talked in every interview about the details.

HERNANDEZ: I understand that you have answered all the questions, but were you forthright? Did you tell everything that was to be told about your relationship with Chandra Levy from interview one?

CONDIT: Interview one was the same as interview two, interview three and interview four. The difference is, the personnel changed. There were different people in different interviews because of the way the District works in the dual jurisdiction.

But there was no difference in each interview. I mean, there were a few new questions. But, basically, they were the same questions.

HERNANDEZ: So are you telling me that you did tell investigators from the very beginning, from that first interview, that you were having an affair, that you had an...

CONDIT: What I'm telling you, Jodi, is, I answered all their questions. I didn't withhold any information. I didn't slow down the process. As a matter of fact, I probably provided more information, been more cooperative than any one else in Washington, D.C.

HERNANDEZ: But did you tell them you were having the affair?

CONDIT: Well, I'm not going to tell you what was said in every interview in the investigation. I'm just telling you that you're working under some false information by unnamed sources. The first interview, I told them everything they asked, all the details -- the same in the second.

HERNANDEZ: You have to understand, Congressman, that is one of the big points that is so disturbing to your constituents here.

CONDIT: Well, it should be disturbing to them, but it also should be disturbing to you, because it is misinformation that has been spread through the press through unnamed sources.

HERNANDEZ: So you are saying it's not true?

CONDIT: I'm telling you that I did four interviews.

HERNANDEZ: I'm just trying to clarify.

CONDIT: I'm telling you I did four interviews, answered every question every time, gave every bit of detail that I could give them about Chandra.

HERNANDEZ: OK. Another big question out there -- and I know this has been a difficult day and these are difficult questions. Chandra Levy's mother, Susan Levy, says that -- told us that, early on, she had a conversation with you and asked you point-blank if you had an affair with her daughter, Chandra. She says that you said, no. Is that in fact true?

CONDIT: I had several conversations with Dr. and Mrs. Levy during that week when he contacted me about the disappearance and his concern about the Metropolitan Police Department not acting quickly enough. There were a lot of things said, but I never lied to Mrs. Levy about anything. I mean, anything that she asked me, I tried to answer forthright. So I am sorry if she was misled or there was a misunderstanding. But I never lied to Mrs. Levy about any of the questions.

I mean, you've got to understand -- I mean, they were pretty -- pretty distraught. They had a lot of anxiety. They made a lot of comments. And my job was to try to console them and do what I could do to be helpful with law enforcement. And I did that.

HERNANDEZ: OK. So you are saying you did not lie to them?


CONDIT: No, I did not. No, I did not lie to Mrs. Levy. I tried to be forthright and tried to be consoling and do all the things they wanted me to do when you have this kind of tragedy.

HERNANDEZ: Did they ask you -- do you recall them asking you if you...

CONDIT: I don't recall them asking me if I had, but they did mention several names, and I'm not going to go into those names. But I listened. I did more listening and reassuring to them than anything else.

HERNANDEZ: Congressman, what would you like to say to the Levys? They are quite upset. Their daughter is still missing.

CONDIT: Sure. Well, my heart, you know, goes out to the Levys. I don't think I could describe what they are feeling or what they're going through, I mean the pain and anguish that they are going through. I don't think anyone would know that unless you had a missing child. So it's real difficult for me to know exactly what they are feeling.

But I have kids, and if one of them was missing, I would say and do everything I could do to try to get them back.

But where it gets a little bit unfair, I think, is when Dr. and Mrs. Levy make allegations that I might have had something to do with the disappearance. Or when they say I am withholding information that might be helpful. I think that's unfair, it's not correct.

And when they say they are suspicious, I don't know why they would be suspicious of me. I like Chandra. She was my friend. I was very fond of her. Next to them and the family members, I am the next guy in line that would like to see her back. So I think that part is unfair. I do understand their pain. I understand their heartbroken, and I sympathize with them, I pray for them everyday, but the parts that were said that maybe I had something to do with this or withholding information or they ought to be suspicious is unfair and it's untrue.

HERNANDEZ: Congressman, did you have anything to do with the disappearance?

CONDIT: No, I had not one thing. I would have never harmed Chandra. I was fond of Chandra.

HERNANDEZ: Can you tell me what the nature of your relationship was with Chandra? You say you don't recall the Levys asking if you had an affair with their daughter. I'm asking you, did you have an affair with Chandra Levy?

CONDIT: Listen, Jodi, I've been married for 34 years, and I've not been a perfect man, and I've made mistakes in my life, but out of respect for my family and out of a request from the Levy family, it's best that I not go into the details of the relationship.

HERNANDEZ: OK. You said you are very fond of Chandra. What can you tell me about your relationship? When was the last time you saw Chandra, How much time did you spend with Chandra? How close were you?

CONDIT: We were friends, very close. I saw her last -- we were friends, very close, I saw her the last week of April 23rd, maybe the 24th, or the 25th an hour or so. We talked about the fact she lost her internship at the bureau of prisons, and that she was on her way to her graduation ceremony at USC. She was very excited, very enthusiastic about that disappointed a little bit about not getting her internship. She was in a program where she thought the next job that opened up she would get and so she was a little disappointed by that, but not much.

HERNANDEZ: What did you do?

CONDIT: We talked, but that's what we talked about. We talked about her job. We talked about her travel back...

HERNANDEZ: Did she came over your place?

CONDIT: She dropped by my place on the 24th or the 25th.


COSSACK: Up next: How close were Congressman Gary Condit and missing intern Chandra Levy? Stay with us for more off CNN affiliate KOVR's interview with Congressman Gary Condit.


COSSACK: On May 6th of this year, Congressman Gary Condit received a phone call from the distraught father of missing intern Chandra Levy. Dr. Robert Levy called the congressman to say that his daughter was missing. Since that phone call, the world has learned that Congressman Condit and Chandra Levy had more than the typical relationship between an elected official and his constituent.


HERNANDEZ: Congressman, if Chandra Levy is still out there, what would you like to say to Chandra?

CONDIT: Well, if she could hear this, I would like for her to hear we miss her and please come home.

HERNANDEZ: How do you feel about Chandra? You said you are very fond of her.

CONDIT: Right. I'm very distraught, very upset and concerned that she's missing, and it's been four months. I mean, I don't know how the parents feel, but I'm very concerned about that, heartbroken she hasn't shown up in four months. After all the effort that myself and many other people have made, she still disappeared after four months. It's very disheartening.

HERNANDEZ: I'm sure you've heard Chandra's aunt Linda Zamsky she heard from can draw rate before she disappeared as well probably a few days after sounds like did you. Chandra called her and said she had some big news? Do you know what that big news...

CONDIT: No, I have no idea what that big news was.

HERNANDEZ: Do you know if Chandra was pregnant?

CONDIT: I have no indication she would have been pregnant being, no reason to think that.

HERNANDEZ: I know this has been very tough on you and on your family, your wife, your children in particular. How has this impacted them?

CONDIT: Well, it's tough. I mean, it's tough. You've got the tabloids following you around, you've got people trying to bribe people to get your medical records, you've got people saying your wife doesn't have any thumbs, tabloid mentality out there, people following your children around, and it's been tough, but the reality of this is it's not about the Condits, it's about the Levys. What we're going through is minor in comparison to what doctor and Mrs. Levy are going through. They have a tremendous amount of pain. We ought to be empathetic, we ought to pray for them and be as helpful as we possibly can get to them through will.

For me, you know, this is small stuff compared to what -- the burden they are carrying today.

HERNANDEZ: Congressman, did your wife know about the nature of your relationship with Chandra before she disappeared?

CONDIT: My wife didn't know Chandra Levy.

HERNANDEZ: Did your wife ever have any conversations? Or did she ever speak with Chandra Levy?

CONDIT: Never. No, she did not.

HERNANDEZ: OK. When did she learn of this, as she...

CONDIT: She heard the name Chandra Levy when Dr. Levy called my house on approximately May the 6th to let me know that he hadn't from her in several days and he was concerned. I happened to be gone at that time.

But in a few hours, or shortly thereafter, I had come in and Carolyn had told me the conversation. And I was horrified to hear that Chandra might be missing. But on the other hand, I was -- you know how parents are. You are hopeful that it is just a mistake. And so I called Dr. Levy and talked to him. He was concerned about that he hadn't heard from her. He had called the Metropolitan Police Department. They hadn't responded the way he thought they should respond. And I committed to him that I would call them. HERNANDEZ: Did you come forward or come clean to your wife at that point? Or when...

CONDIT: You know, once again, you know, this is about a missing person. What I did next was contact the police department, just like I said I would do. And I contacted the FBI and asked them to get involved. I helped set up a reward. And within two days, I had a couple of detectives over at my house visiting me, at my invitation.

HERNANDEZ: Congressman, was anything about your relationship with Chandra Levy professionally inappropriate? Your constituents are quite concerned. They think that this is important. We've been bombarded with e-mails from your constituents. They want to know from you, from your mouth.

CONDIT: Jodi, I think people out there understand this answer that I have given you once. And I will give it to you once again.

I have been married 34 years. I have not been a perfect man. I have made mistakes. But out of respect for my family and out of a specific request from the Levy family, I am not going to share the details of my relationship with Chandra.

And you know what? People understand that. They understand that we are entitled to a little bit of privacy here. And the Levys are entitled to a little bit of privacy here as well. So my constituents understand that.

HERNANDEZ: So the Levys asked you not to talk about...

CONDIT: The Levys had a statement two days ago made that they would like us not to go into details of the relationship.


COSSACK: Up next: the congressman's message to the people of Condit country.

We'll have more of CNN affiliate KOVR's interview with Gary Condit when we come back. So don't go away.


COSSACK: In an effort to explain his role in the Chandra Levy investigation, Congressman Gary Condit sent a mass mailing to the voters of Modesto, California.

Although he did acknowledge that he made some mistakes, the congressman fell far short of apologizing for anything. Last night, CNN affiliate reporter Jodi Hernandez gave Condit the opportunity to speak to the people of "Condit Country" on her local TV station. And, in addition, Hernandez asked the congressman about his relationship with flight attendant Anne Marie Smith.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HERNANDEZ: There have also been reports a number of other women have come forward. What can you tell us about that? I mean, several women have come forward. That's also very troubling to your constituents.

CONDIT: Well, when you think about that -- I mean, when you take tabloid journalism and turn it into mainstream journalism, it is troubling.

I mean, when people who have no contact, don't know Chandra Levy, would take advantage of a tragedy to promote themselves financially or publicize themselves, it's very troubling. This is part of the tabloid journalism that we are confronted with. And it's sort of fallen into the mainstream journalism. I mean, if you look at the Otis Thomas story of the gentleman -- the minister who I supposedly had an affair with his daughter and implied that I had a child, the local newspaper, "The Modesto Bee" was told directly that I didn't know those people; I had nothing to do with that. But they printed it anyway.

So this is innuendo, rumors, unnamed sources. It's kind of anything goes.

HERNANDEZ: A couple of women have come forward. One, in particular, Anne Marie Smith, has gone public, done numerous interviews. She stated in one of the interviews that you called her and told her that you were in trouble and that you may have to disappear for a while.

CONDIT: That never occurred. And you have to question Anne Marie Smith's motives. Her motive is to sell a story to a tabloid. That's what she did. And for you to embrace that as just a regular news story is a little bit questionable to me.

HERNANDEZ: I'm trying to set the record straight here. You are saying that that in fact did not...

CONDIT: Did not occur. I did not have that conversation with her.

HERNANDEZ: Congressman, a lot of folks out there, I've been out there talking to them. They say they that they would like to hear you apologize. I don't know if you feel that you want to do that or say anything to your constituents regarding that on this local broadcast. This is a local broadcast.

CONDIT: Well, I spoke to my constituents through a letter that they are receiving today. And I tried to explain as best I can the circumstances.

But I will say this to you: If I have done anything to hurt anyone, cause anyone pain, I would be more than happy to apologize. I don't have any problems with doing that. But -- so that's not a hard thing to do. I would do that on any given occasion. If I have created a situation where were there was pain or sorrow to someone, I would apologize for that. HERNANDEZ: Do you apologize to them? I mean, they are feeling betrayed. They are feeling hurt.

CONDIT: I don't know that you speak for all of my constituents.


CONDIT: I receive a lot of e-mails and a lot of letters myself. And I think I have given you the answer, that if I have hurt or offended anyone, I certainly would apologize for that. But I think you have to take some responsibility in the media for all the misinformation that you guys have put out there, all the unnamed sources that you have put out there, all the people with innuendoes.

You guys have some responsibility for having the constituents feel that way because you didn't set a standard for yourself as well -- not just you, but I think the media in general. When you jump to innuendoes or unnamed sources...

HERNANDEZ: Congressman...

CONDIT: ... you have to take some responsibility. And, actually, I would like to see you guys apologize to the people for doing that.


COSSACK: Don't go away. We have more of this special edition of BURDEN OF PROOF, because when we come back, the congressman fields tough questions about his political future and asks for an apology.

We'll continue our special extended edition of BURDEN OF PROOF right after this.


COSSACK: Welcome back to this extended edition of BURDEN OF PROOF.

Now, Lou Waters and Natalie Allen will join us shortly for "CNN TODAY."

Now, we've been showing you an interview that Gary Condit gave last night to KOVR reporter Jodi Hernandez. In this next segment Condit talks about his political future.


HERNANDEZ: I'm wondering how you plan to regain the trust of your constituents here? Some say you are speaking out today, this is something folks have been waiting for here, hear it over and over that they just want to hear from you. A lot of people said that they're going to wait to form any sort of judgment until after they hear this interview. But others say this is too little too late. How do you plan to regain your trust? Do you think you can? Do you think you can run a successful... CONDIT: This is not about politics. Look, the voters will decide what the voters are going to do. They'll listen to what I have to say, they'll read the mail. They'll look at performances over the years. They'll make their decision.

I mean, this is not -- I'm not speaking today from a political standpoint, and I have not been silent all this time. I mean, I have done the things that Americans are supposed to do.

When there is a problem, you work with the people who have the responsibility to solve the problem. When Chandra Levy went missing, I worked with law enforcement to do everything that I could to be helpful to them.

Did I have news conferences? No. Did I keep you posted every week of those meetings we had, or the fact that I did a polygraph or the fact I did a DNA or I let them search my house? I wasn't silent. I was doing what most Americans are supposed to do, and that is be helpful to law enforcement to try to solve the problem they have in front of them. And that's what I did.

And my constituents will make that decision. They'll make the decision for themselves whether or not that was a good or bad thing.

HERNANDEZ: You're going on with your plans for the "Condit Country" fund-raiser, the big fund-raiser you have...

CONDIT: Well, you can ask that on camera. I mean, that would have been good question.

HERNANDEZ: We're rolling.


CONDIT: I'm proceeding just like I normally do. I mean, I'm making plans to do the things we normally do.

HERNANDEZ: That includes running for reelection?

CONDIT: I have no intentions of changing my plans at this moment. We'll make a formal announcement in a couple of months. And we will go spend some time with my family. We will talk to supporters, constituents and other people. And then we'll make a formal announcement. That's what we always do. But at this moment, we're not changing any of our plans.


COSSACK: Well, that's all the time we have for today's BURDEN OF PROOF.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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