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Condit aide: Media interest a 'lot of smoke'

Mike Lynch  

MODESTO, California (CNN) -- Interest in Rep. Gary Condit's personal life is a "lot of smoke" that is obscuring the disappearance of Chandra Levy, which should be the real focus, said the California Democrat's chief of staff.

In an interview on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports on Monday, Mike Lynch said that Condit still plans to run for re-election in 2002, despite two newspaper editorials over the weekend that called for the congressman to resign.

"He -- early on, long before (this) issue -- he had decided to seek re-election, and those plans have not changed," said Lynch, who was interviewed from Seattle.

"The police have said since day one that Congressman Condit has no link to the disappearance of Chandra Levy. They have said from day one, that he has been fully forthcoming with information related to the disappearance," Lynch said. "They have said all that stuff ... but many of the people in the press just don't print it."

Mike Lynch, chief of staff for Rep. Gary Condit, (D) California, talks with CNN's Wolf Blitzer - Part 1 (August 13)

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Part 2 (August 13)

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Condit statement on the Modesto editorial
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Profile: Gary Condit
Fresno Bee editorial  
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Lynch criticized the media for focusing on Condit's personal life instead of police statements that there is "no link whatsoever" between Condit and the disappearance of the Levy, a former federal intern who vanished in May.

"The fact that the media is going into other areas is because there's no 'there' there. There is no linkage," Lynch said. "At the close of the day, people are going to recognize that Congressman Condit has no link to the disappearance and that we have a mystery here."

Editorials call for Condit's resignation

Sunday, two major newspapers serving Condit's California district -- the Modesto Bee and the Fresno Bee -- called on him to resign. The Modesto paper is in Condit's district; the Fresno paper is not, but part of his district lies in Fresno County. Both papers are under the same ownership.

Previously, his hometown newspaper, the weekly Ceres Courier, also called for Condit's resignation.

While not accusing Condit of having any involvement with Levy's disappearance, the newspapers said his conduct in the three months since she vanished makes him unfit to remain in Congress. They criticized Condit for maintaining a public silence as the controversy swirled around him.

"We did not ask for his resignation on the basis of what he has said or not said to the police department. What we have said is that he has been deceptive throughout the last three months since the disappearance. He's used his public payroll in a way that we don't think is fitting of a congressman," Jim Boren, editorial page editor of the Fresno Bee, said on Wolf Blitzer Reports.

"A congressman that doesn't meet with his constituency doesn't seem like an effective congressman in the view of our editorial board," he said.

The Modesto Bee, in an editorial, blasted Condit for his "duplicity" and "abhorrent" behavior, saying it hindered the police investigation into Levy's disappearance, which authorities are treating as a missing person case.

Its editorial is particularly significant because the newspaper has long endorsed Condit's bids for public office and is viewed as the most influential newspaper in the district.

The Fresno Bee took Condit to task for allegedly having his congressional staff lie for him about his relationship with Levy. Asked if that charge was true, Lynch said "no," but he would not elaborate, saying it was "part of the investigation."

Both the newspapers, Lynch said, have "lost their objectivity."

Levys 'not interested' in Condit's career

Chandra Levy, the 24-year-old former federal intern disappeared from Washington more than three months ago. Police sources say Condit, 53, married and a father of two, admitted in one of his four police interviews that he had a romantic relationship with her. But he has never been named as a suspect because authorities said there is no sign of foul play.

Lynch also declined to comment on police statements that Condit admitted a romantic relationship to police, saying he did not sit in on the interview.

"That whole relationship issue is irrelevant anyway," Lynch said. "The issue here is the disappearance (of Levy)."

Lynch also said that in June, Condit met with the managing editor and editorial page editor of the Modesto Bee, explaining to them why he had decided not to make any public comment on the case while the police investigation was continuing.

"He has said from the beginning of this issue ... that, at the appropriate time in the investigation, he would make a public comment," Lynch said. "I suspect it will be sooner rather than later."

Reacting Monday to the newspapers' call for Condit's resignation, Levy's father, Dr. Robert Levy, said he wants to stay focused on finding his daughter and is "not Interested" in the congressman's career.

In a statement released Sunday, Condit criticized the Modesto Bee editorial, calling it "terribly unfair and disappointing."

• Rep. Gary Condit

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