Condit's unseemly silence

Posted: Friday, July 06, 2001

This editorial appeared in today's Los Angeles Times:

When was the last time you heard of a congressman skipping Fourth of July parades in his own district? Ever since Chandra Levy, a 25-year-old Bureau of Prisons intern from Modesto County, disappeared in Washington May 1, Rep. Gary A. Condit, D-Calif., has been underground. Police have repeatedly pointed out that there may not even be a crime behind Levy's disappearance and that Condit is not a suspect in any case - which makes the congressman's stance particularly inappropriate. He has said publicly that Levy became "a good friend" of his in Washington. Reportedly, he has been less than forthcoming to police investigators about their relationship. He's declined all media interviews, and his spokesman has attacked the press for "tabloidizing" the story.

Until Thursday, the FBI had been unable to obtain an interview with his wife, Carolyn. Instead of rushing to assist the investigation into Levy's disappearance, Condit has created the perception that he has something to hide and fueled the very media circus he denounces. New allegations make Condit's behavior even more troubling. Anne Marie Smith, a 39-year-old flight attendant, told Fox News that she and Condit had an affair over the past year and that, once Levy disappeared, the congressman's attorneys asked her to sign an affidavit stating that she and Condit were never romantically involved. Condit's lawyers have acknowledged that they sent such a statement. Smith has said she wouldn't sign it. And now Condit's former chauffeur, Vince Flammini, has said that he told the FBI that Condit and Smith had an affair. It gets worse for the congressman. Smith says that Condit told her that she need not talk to the FBI. He has denied that. If he did, in fact, suggest that anyone dodge investigators' diligent search for a missing person, he is unfit for office. Even if that accusation proves incorrect, he has fallen short as a public official and as a person.

Condit has had a moral duty to Levy, her frantic parents and his constituents to speak up. Instead, in trying to protect his reputation by hunkering down, he's probably destroyed it.

Back in 1998, when Bill Clinton was trying to hide his involvement with Monica S. Lewinsky, Condit declared that Clinton should end the "drip-drip-drip." The disappearance of a person is far more serious than adultery - all the more reason Condit should have heeded his own words.



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