Rep. Gary Condit lashed out at the major local newspapers in his California congressional district for their editorials calling for his resignation.
In a strongly worded editorial on Sunday, the Modesto Bee — calling itself one of Condit's strong supporters in the past — accused the congressman of "bizarre behavior" and demanded that he resign.
Condit called that "terribly unfair and disappointing."
The congressman's "abhorrent conduct in the Chandra Levy investigation has violated the public trust and rendered him no longer fit to remain in office," the editorial reads.
The Fresno Bee also called for Condit's resignation. Both Bee newspapers are owned by the McClatchy Company.
Condit Blasts ‘Media Frenzy’
In a brief written statement, Condit said the editorial, "like the articles [the Bee] ran and later had to correct with false accusations about me, is another example of it following the media frenzy in this case rather than leading, by providing its readers with the truth."
He promised to speak on the matter soon, after talking with his family, and asked that his constituents withhold judgment until then.
Jim Boren, The Fresno Bee's editorial page editor, defended the editorial on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports.
"We've given him consideration for the last three months. We've given him the benefit of the doubt," Boren said .
Speaking on the same program, Condit Chief-of-Staff Mike Lynch said it was wrong for the media to focus on the congressman's behavior after Levy disappeared. "There's no linkage," Lynch said.
"At the close of the day, people are going to recognize that Congressman Condit had no link to the disappearance," Lynch said, adding that the focus should stay on trying to find Levy.
Lynch also said Condit would seek re-election to a seventh term in the House.
Condit has reportedly admitted to police that he had an affair with Levy, who went missing shortly after completing a federal internship more than three months ago.
Police say they do not consider Condit a suspect, but have questioned him several times in connection with the case. Levy's parents, as well as their attorney, have accused him of being less than forthcoming on the matter. Although the weekly Ceres Courier has also called on Condit to resign, the Modesto Bee is the most prominent local paper in the congressman's district. The paper said it had endorsed Condit in all his previous contested bids for office, but "will almost certainly never endorse him again."
‘No Explanation, No Defense, No Remorse’
"This paper — and the people he represents — have attempted to give Condit the benefit of the doubt, while urging him to speak publicly in detail about his involvement," the Modesto Bee editorial read. "He has refused to do that, even while disturbing details about his role have become public. Still Condit has offered no explanation, no defense, no remorse."
But in his statement, Condit — who has been largely silent on matters related to the Levy investigation — vowed to address the case "very soon."
"It is terribly unfair and disappointing that the Bee would have come to any decision about me without first allowing the investigation to continue and hearing what I have to say," the statement, which ran just over 300 words, read (full text below).
The paper accused Condit hindering the police investigation into Levy's disappearance.
"While showing little concern for the missing former intern, he has spun, stalled and stonewalled, refusing to face the media or his constituents — whose questions have been spurred in part by his own bizarre behavior," the paper wrote.
The Bee editorial also appeared on the front page of the newspaper's Web site, and is signed by president and publisher Lynn Dickerson and editor Mark S. Vasche.
Ironically, the front page of Condit's congressional Web site features a reprint of a Bee article on his then-wide appeal in his home district. The reprint features a link to the Bee which, once clicked, takes the viewer directly to the call for Condit's resignation.
Courier Also Demands Resignation
The Bee is the second local paper to call for Condit's resignation. Last week, the weekly Ceres Courier also asked the congressman to step down.
"The sordid details of his numerous alleged affairs splashed throughout the pages of grocery store tabloids has brought about embarrassment for not only his supporters but those who reside within the 18th Congressional District," the Courier editorial, written by editor Jeff Benziger, read.
Condit, who has been in seclusion at his Ceres, Calf., home since Congress began a monthlong recess last week, did not respond to that editorial.