California Rep. Gary Condit says he didn't have an opportunity to fully express his sympathy toward the family of missing intern Chandra Levy during his televised interview with ABCNEWS' Connie Chung on Thursday night.
Condit said he originally hoped to clear the air about his involvement with Levy and his cooperation with the investigation into her disappearance. In an interview with Newsweek's top investigative reporter that appeared on the Internet on Friday, Condit said that Chung questioned him too long about the nature of his relationship with the missing intern.
He said he was waiting for Chung to ask him something "other than the sex question."
Condit also lashes out at news media for turning the case into a "soap-opera scandal to keep their ratings up," according to the Newsweek article.
"The press is not entitled to know everything about my private life or the private life of any other member of Congress," he said during the interview. "You're not the church, and you're not the court."
Democratic Leader ‘Disappointed’
Reaction from his constituents to Thursday night's exclusive national broadcast interview with ABCNEWS was mixed. But the interview with Chung appeared to do nothing to win over the media in his California district or to convince Democrats he has any political future.
The top Democrat in the House, Minority Leader Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, was sharply critical on Friday in his reaction to Condit's performance, calling it "disturbing and wrong."
"I'm disappointed," Gephardt said. "I think the most important thing in life and certainly in politics is credibility and I think, you know, if you want to be credible, you've got to be straightforward. And I think that was damaged and I'm sorry about that."
In the eyes of one Democratic consultant, Condit's career is finished.
"There were one or two nails in his coffin before last night, and as far as I'm concerned, he took the hammer and put them in," Democratic political adviser Bob Beckel said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "He's gone."
One person who did not watch the interview was President Bush, who is vacationing in Crawford, Texas. But at a news conference on Friday, Bush said his thoughts are with Levy's parents.
"I'm not worried about the gossip, I'm worried about the facts and there's a girl missing," Bush said, making his first public comments on the matter. "Our prayers are with her parents. I have seen them on TV and I agonize for the mom and the dad and that's where my heart is."
‘What Else Is He Hiding?’
Voters who could have the final say on Condit's political future also seemed unconvinced by his performance, even though almost no one interviewed said they believed he had anything to do with Levy's disappearance.
"He would not address the issue of just how intimate the relationship with Chandra Levy was," voter Diane Williams said. "Exactly, and that's what everyone wants to know. Just like with President Clinton, he is a member of the group that runs our state and our country and so it's like we should have the opportunity to know the truth."
"I feel like if he is hiding that kind of truth, that kind of stuff, what else is he hiding? And it doesn't really seem he's into family values and marriage and the higher morals that I believe in," local resident Ronelle Nespar said.
Father Lends Support
Although it appeared that many Democrats in Congress have turned on Condit, the Congressman has one source of support: His father.
The Rev. Adrian Condit told WABC Radio in New York on Friday that he does not believe his son was hiding anything — and he would have found him sincere even if he wasn't his dad.
"I didn't know what the questions were going to be, [and] I didn't know what his answers were going to be," Rev. Condit said. "when I saw him almost break down in tears a couple or three times in that interview, I knew that he was sincere, and I would have known that if he'd had been a rank stranger to me,"
"He has served his constituents well, he's done a great job not just because he's my son … Of course he's made mistakes, and I haven't always agreed with even some of his political decisions, but probably 95 percent of them I have," his father continued. "My personal opinion is that if Gary was having an election next week, [he] would be reelected."
Condit's interview marked a dramatic shift in strategy after nearly four months of refusing to comment publicly on his relationship with Levy.
On Tuesday, he sat down for an interview with People magazine. The following day, he mailed out at least 200,000 letters to his constituents explaining his actions. Right after talking to ABC, he granted an interview to a CBS TV station in his district, as well as with Newsweek.