Leave Condit alone, already

By the

August 30, 2001

U.S. Rep. Gary Condit’s (D-Ca) Prime Time Live interview last Thursday typified for viewers how the media has handled the Chandra Levy saga. While the impassive Condit was less than cooperative with his programmed answers, his interrogator, Connie Chung, refused to focus on the real crux of the story: the missing intern. Chung did not relent in her attempts to get Condit to admit to a sexual relationship with Levy. Viewers certainly understood Condit’s oft-repeated response, “I haven’t been a perfect man,” but the media continues to uncover that one magical word: sex.

When Chandra Levy first disappeared in May, the story appeared in the middle pages of the Washington Post Metro section without much fanfare. But as she became linked to her hometown congressman, Condit, the media dug deeper to find any similarities to the more public intern scandal of 1998 involving former President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Under enormous media pressure to contribute information to the case, Condit finally admitted in July that he had a relationship with Levy.

Soon after, the floodgates opened. Newspapers and television stations clamored to uncover whatever they could about Condit’s past. In fact, there were several scandalous leads. Among other things, he was linked to affairs with several women and was accused of obstructing the D.C. police’s investigation.

What was unique and frightening about all of this was that the media seemed to be the guiding force in the investigation. MSNBC, Fox News and CNN covered the Levy case throughout the slow summer days, often working arm-in-arm with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department in their search of parks, houses and trash cans. News broke on-air even before the police could create a press release. Assumptions and theories were mixed with murder and sex during the media’s feeding frenzy, but still the major question remains unanswered: Where is the missing intern?

In short, all we can really say is that Condit has suffered politically, but it appears equally obvious that he has had nothing to do with Levy’s disappearance. One might ask, did they have sex? But it really doesn’t matter. Granted, the tale is undeniably interesting and creates great ratings, but it solves nothing. Connie Chung’s interview serves as an obvious example of this failure. Gary Condit seems to be in worse shape than ever before, but Chandra Levy is still nowhere to be found.

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