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Congressman Gary Condit Breaks Silence

Aired August 23, 2001 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to start here in Atlanta with breaking news. The California congressman's first public comments about the disappearance of a former intern.

CNN has now obtained a copy of a letter from Congressman Gary Condit to his constituents, and as Condit begins a public campaign to tell his side in the Chandra Levy story.

Our Rusty Dornin joins us now from Condit's political district in Modesto, California. Rusty, good morning.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn. The sun has yet to peek over the horizon here in Modesto, California. It will probably about another three hours before the mail trucks hit the roads and begin delivering a three-page letter from Congressman Gary Condit. 127,000 constituents in the 18th district will be getting this letter today, and we're going to read you a few of the excerpts from this letter.

He starts out: "Dear friends and neighbors, Chandra Levy has been mission for nearly four months. I am sorry that the pain the Levy family and Chandra friends are feeling has grown worse with each passing day."

He goes onto say, "Despite my best attempts to help the police find Chandra, some of the media have criticized me for remaining silent. I have not been silent with those in charge of finding Chandra. I have answered every single question asked by the police and the FBI.

In another paragraph, "Before speaking to the media, I wanted to write to you. I have known so many of you for a long time. You know me to be a hard working, committed to our issues and dedicated to my community and my family. I hope you will understand that I am not perfect and have made my share of mistakes."

He goes on to say also that he hopes his relationship with these constituents is strong enough to endure this, and he talks about the things he's done for people, helping out mothers, helping people who are in trouble, and hopes that this will help when they make their decision on whether or not to support him.

Now this is really the first time the constituents have heard directly from him since this whole thing started almost four months ago. He will be doing an interviewing today, of course, with Connie Chung and with a local television station, and also some newspapers, and "people" magazine also. He has given an interview to them. That will hit the newsstands tomorrow.

That is really the first time we see pictures, also, of Congressman Gary Condit's wife Carolyn, who is pictured on the cover with the congressman. So, a lot of constituents here are going to probably be busy checking their mailboxes today, Daryn, to see what the congressman has to say.

KAGAN: And, it is a little bit early, especially for mail service there in Modesto, Rusty. But, any early reactions from the letter going out today?

DORNIN: Well, we woke up a few of his constituents early this morning...

KAGAN: How nice of you!

(LAUGHTER)

DORNIN: And one of his supporters did say -- I asked her: What was the one question you would ask him? And she said, why have you waited so long? Which is basically, on either side, what both of them want to know.

But, she said she was happy with what she saw in the letter. Of course, one of the Republican constituents that we talked to that has not been a Condit supporter said it's just more political spin and it just raises many more questions for him that he doesn't seem prepared to answer.

KAGAN: Well, if nothing else it definitely sounds like a letter from a man who plans on running for reelection when his term is up. Rusty Dornin in Modesto, thank you.

Stephen.

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: Daryn, the letter and the interviews that Rusty mentioned, are all part of the congressman new campaign to make his case before the public, finally.

For some reaction to these latest developments, let's go to CNN's Jason Carroll who's at 50th and Broadway in Time Square of New York, where he's checking the pulse of the public.

Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that pulse is beating very, very quickly, as you can imagine. This is a story that is not -- that people in Washington are not just interested in, they're interested all over the country. Take a looked at some of the front pages here, specifically this one, the "New York Post." You can go on ahead and get your paper here, if you want to. The "New York Post," right there in the front, picture of a happy couple that is the "People" magazine cover which will hit newsstands tomorrow. As you said, Stephen, we are right near Times Square. If you want public opinion this is the place to come to, as this is one of the busiest places on earth. A lot of folks here in New York City on their way to work. We have caught up with four of them, two are tourists from Minnesota.

This is Kate and this is Jim. Obviously, we're here talking about Gary Condit. Will you be watching tonight?

JIM: Sure.

KATE: Probably.

CARROLL: If you had the opportunity to be Connie Chung, either one of you, what would you ask Gary Condit this evening?

KATE: I would just ask him why he had to be such an embarrassment to his family. That to me was the most important thing.

CARROLL: Jim, what about you?

JIM: It seems he's more interested in his political career than finding the girl and helping her family out.

CARROLL: OK, we also have Billy here as well, and we have Brian, the two of them.

Billy, anything that you are expecting to hear tonight that you haven't heard before?

BILLY: I want to know where she is. It's ridiculous, and he should have known better after what happened with Bill Clinton.

CARROLL: What about you? Anything you are expecting to hear tonight that you haven't heard before?

BRIAN: I'd love to hear whether he has plans to meet with the levy family.

CARROLL: If you had an opportunity to ask him something this evening, what would you ask?

BRIAN: Exactly that. Do you have any plans to sit down with the Levy family, explain to them why -- and why you took advantage of their daughter on an internship.

CARROLL: All right, the four of you thank you so very much for joining us this morning on CNN. Have a great time while you're here in New York City. We really appreciate it. Thanks very much.

And again, Stephen, lots of different opinions here in New York City. If you want opinion, this is definitely the place to come to. People always say that New Yorkers -- when you come to New York, two things that you can expect: One, get an expensive apartment, and two, form an opinion, and no shortage of opinions here. Stephen.

FRAZIER: Jason Carroll in Times Square. Jason, thanks very much.

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