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Gary Condit Writes Letter to Constituents

Aired August 23, 2001 - 07:32   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.
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: It begins: "Dear friends and neighbors." It is the letter that Congressman Gary Condit is sending to his constituents. CNN has obtained a copy of it.

And joining us now, CNN's Bill Schneider in Washington to talk about more -- more about this letter, go through some of the excerpts from it.

Good morning, Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning, Colleen.

MCEDWARDS: Can we begin with right off the top of this letter, second paragraph, Congressman Condit writes to his constituents, "I'm sorry that the pain the Levy family and Chandra's friends are feeling has grown worse each passing day." We had some guests on just a few minutes earlier that suggested that that is an apology -- that it's enough of an apology for Congressman Condit's supporters.

What are your thoughts about it?

SCHNEIDER: It has nothing to do with his own behavior, it has nothing to do with whether or not he impeded the investigation or concealed his relationship with Chandra Levy. What he's doing here is not apologizing, he's commiserating. He's saying I'm sorry about their pain, I feel their pain, that it's grown worse with each passing day. The Levy family have essentially said, more or less directly said, that they hold Congressman Condit in part responsible for that pain.

MCEDWARDS: Well, and speaking of his behavior in that investigation, let's get on to our next portion of it here. He says, "Despite my best attempts to help the police find Chandra, some in the media have criticized me for remaining silent." There's a couple of times in this -- in this letter where he is pointing out that in his mind he helped police, that he did the best he could, that he even helped the family.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, he claims that he has been fully cooperative with the proper authorities. He says he remains silent only with the press. He hasn't spoken out publicly, and he does offer an explanation for that. He said when the tabloids turned this story into spectacle and rumors about my private life, I decided that I would not speak to the media.

MCEDWARDS: Well, and is that going to get him...

SCHNEIDER: So essentially...

MCEDWARDS: Is that going to get him any sympathy, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think people do identify with someone who's being hounded by the media and they feel a certain amount of sympathy for him. The media went into his private life and he doesn't really explain any of that except to say that my private life is private. I'm not proud of what I've done. He said I'm not perfect. I've made my share of mistakes, but that's not the focus of this letter. Essentially, there are no apologies and no explanation in this letter for his behavior. He's saying that he was fully cooperative, there's nothing to explain or apologize for and that his silence was driven by the fact of the media frenzy.

MCEDWARDS: OK, let's just move through it a little more, if we can. Another portion of it says that "some suggest that not talking with the media could mean that I had something to do with Chandra's disappearance. I did not. I pray that she has not met the same fate as the other young women who have disappeared from the same neighborhood."

SCHNEIDER: Two assertions that are very important. This is his strongest assertion: I did not -- a three word sentence. I had nothing to do with her disappearance and, in fact, no one has provided any evidence that he's linked to it in any real way. I mean the police have said he's not a suspect. The FBI considers this a cold case and he is confirming the fact that he had nothing to do with her disappearance, period, which is, of course, the central issue in this case.

Interestingly, when we've gone out and polled people both nationally and others have polled in his own district, some two-thirds of Americans say they do think he is connected somehow with her -- with Chandra Levy's disappearance. That's a very damaging assumption. They believe that because he's behaved as if he's hiding something. Here he is saying flat out I'm not hiding anything. I had nothing to do with her disappearance. And he adds the assertion, these kinds of cases are not uncommon -- these kinds of tragic disappearances.

MCEDWARDS: Yes, raising that specter almost that there have been disappearances in her neighborhood. Some people have suggested that they might even be linked.

But I want to move on to the next excerpt, which is -- which is important in terms of tone in the sense that he's really speaking directly to his constituents. He says, "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 hard working, committed to our issues and dedicated to my community and my family. I hope you also will understand that I'm not perfect. I have made -- and have made -- sorry -- my share of mistakes." SCHNEIDER: We're family, that's what he's saying, essentially, to his constituents. You know me, I've always been there for you. I was there for the Levy family. We are family. It's the kind of relationship most House members have with their constituents. They develop it over time and they stay elected that way. Essentially he's saying it's you and me against the world and the world out there is driven by the tabloid media.

MCEDWARDS: All right, Bill Schneider, this letter is obviously just this morning's news, but tonight he's going to be interviewed on television. What more does he have to do in that interview in your analysis?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think that he's going to be asked specifically about his relationship with Chandra Levy. He's never publicly acknowledged that he had an intimate relationship. It's simply been reported that he told that to the police after many weeks of investigation and, therefore, impeded their investigation. What exactly was his relationship with Chandra Levy and why did it take him so long to acknowledge it, that's what he has to explain because many people suspect that he was hiding something.

MCEDWARDS: All right. CNN's Bill Schneider, we'll leave it there. Thanks very much.

SCHNEIDER: OK.

MCEDWARDS: And also on CNN this evening, 11:00 p.m. Eastern, after that interview takes place, a special report, "Condit Speaks: The Reaction." Join us for that.

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