(Published: Friday, June 08, 2001)
The speculation about Rep. Gary Condit's link to Chandra Levy, the Modesto woman who vanished last month after completing an internship in Washington, D.C., is intensifying rather than abating.
The latest came Thursday, with a story in The Washington Post headlined "Intern Spent Night, Condit Told Police." The story ascribed this "news" to unidentified "law enforcement sources." Condit's office denied the story, and the congressman later in the day hired an attorney to demand a retraction.
It is time for the people to hear directly from Condit. As an elected leader with a hazy connection to a missing person, the Ceres congressman has a duty to publicly clarify his relationship with Levy, if for no other reason than to help focus the search for Chandra on fact, not rumor.
So far, Condit has not spoken publicly on the matter, choosing instead to have his staff issue prepared statements, such as an early one in which he described Chandra as "a great person and a good friend." The Bee has made repeated requests over the past five weeks to talk with the congressman, but he has steadfastly refused to be interviewed. Even his statement Thursday, in which Condit's office sought the retraction from The Washington Post, featured quotes from staff, not Condit himself.
Five weeks of silence is enough. Condit would better serve his constituents by squarely facing the public and its questions. He owes that much to the people who elected him and placed their trust and confidence in him.
After all, it is the Condit angle, real or perceived, that has sharply raised the profile of Levy's disappearance, propelling it into national headlines.
But with prominence and public service comes responsibility -- not to respond to every rumor, but to provide basic answers that may relate, however peripherally, to a missing-person case that weighs heavily on the hearts of those in Levy's hometown and far beyond.