Jewish World Review August 31, 2001 /12 Elul, 5761

Mona Charen

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Consumer Reports

AS one of the first to consider the available evidence about Rep. Gary Condit's behavior and declare him a "louse," I believe I have standing to say: Enough already. This prolonged public torture is taking on a medieval quality. The newspapers, the talk shows, but most particularly the cable news channels are not searching for the truth or seeking to advance the story -- instead, they are engaged in a version of bear-baiting for the entertainment of the masses.

I am as mystified as everyone else about why Condit chose to do the Chung interview. The story was starting, finally, to die down. He had stonewalled so hard and for so long during the worst gales, why revive the story now? Strange. It is also difficult to understand why he would do a television interview when he planned to say nothing other than "I have been married for 34 years. I am not a perfect man. ... "

As I've written before, it does seem that Condit put his political health above his concern for the missing intern. His lies do him no credit, either -- but when did it become a matter of pressing national importance whether he or Anne Marie Smith is telling the truth about their affair?

Gary Condit is being hounded like a murderer -- and yet we have no evidence of any kind that Condit was involved in Chandra Levy's disappearance. And the righteous indignation many are expressing about his lack of candor is quite overwrought.

Each tiny detail of "incriminating" evidence has been hashed over by the media until it is black and blue. He disposed of a watch box in a trashcan far from his home! Yes, this may mean that he killed Chandra Levy and disposed of her body in exactly the same way. Or, it's just possible, isn't it, that he's being truthful when he says the media have made his life such a living hell that he felt sure they'd go through his trash?

What other "evidence" is there that Condit is a murderer? The police and other investigators combed through his apartment -- even, according to Condit, checking the drains for blood -- and found nothing. Of course that was eight weeks after her disappearance and doesn't prove anything. He could have murdered her somewhere else. But, like the polygraph he took and passed, it doesn't get mentioned much either.

Bob Somerby ( has pointed out that two of the biggest strikes against Condit are not true. The first is the rumor that Levy was pregnant when she disappeared. This rumor has fed the notion that Levy was threatening Condit in some way and giving him an incentive to be rid of her permanently. But Judy Bachrach reports in Vanity Fair that the Levys have known from the beginning that this was not the case. Levy and her mother discussed their menstrual cycles when Chandra was in California for Passover, and Mrs. Levy knew that Chandra was not pregnant two weeks before she vanished. Why the Levys permitted this rumor to circulate uncorrected is a mystery.

The second falsehood that has gained currency according to Somerby is the idea that Condit told Levy to leave her I.D. at home when she went to see him. The Washington Times reports that D.C. police no longer believe this. It may be that Chandra told an untruth. It's also possible that her aunt, Linda Zamsky, did. It's also possible that the D.C. police are wrong. But this has clearly not received much press attention at all.

Instead, we get Gary Condit turned on a spit day and night. What exactly did he mean by "relationship" when he denied having one with the flight attendant? How do his constituents feel? Dick Gephardt pronounces himself "disappointed." But what did Gephardt know a day after the Chung interview that he didn't know before? Wasn't he just cutting his (and his party's) losses in the face of a poor performance?

Gary Condit may indeed be guilty of murder. But there is no evidence. None. And to watch the media baying after him is like watching any mob in action. They don't have torches and dirty faces, but they are a mob nonetheless.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate