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Panelists Discuss Gary Condit's Interview With 'Vanity Fair'

Aired August 23, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, four months Gary Condit gave reporters the silent treatment. Now he's running a high-stakes media campaign. Can the embattled congressman (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Joining us with an exclusive preview of an interview Gary Condit gave her just yesterday, Judy Bachrach, contributing editor for "Vanity Fair. " And then more outspoken debate on this compelling story in Washington. Former prosecutor, best-selling author Barbara Olson, in New York, former prosecutor turned Court TV anchor Nancy Grace. In Los Angeles, former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne. Back in D.C. former chief minority counsel for house judiciary, Julian Epstein. And with him, former independent counsel, former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin. Plus later in Portland, Tonya Harding. She endured a trial by media fire including interview with Connie Chung. And they are all next on LARRY KING LIVE!

We begin with Judy Bachrach. She's with us from Denver. She's one of this country's best reporters. She has a new book out that is very controversial and already heading for the best-seller list called "Tina and Harry come to America: Tina Brown, Harry Evans and the Uses of Power." But that's not the reason she is with us tonight. She recently -- or just conducted an interview with Gary Condit for the December issue of "Vanity Fair." Why so far away, Judy? I mean, December?

JUDY BACHRACH, "VANITY FAIR": I think you know that "Vanity Fair" is planned months in advance. So when I interviewed Gary Condit, I realized that it would not be out the next day. That was a given.

KING: So that puts you and the magazine in kind of a tough spot because a lot of information is going to come out before yours comes out.

BACHRACH: We know that. This is going to be an analysis of what happened. It is not going to be a step by step, you know, what happened today. It just so happens I saw Mr. Condit yesterday. But we realized that all along, that this was going to be an overview, a final analysis of how this was conducted.

KING: Where did do you the interview?

BACHRACH: I did it in L.A. Gary Condit was in L.A. with his attorney, Abbe Lowell in L.A., in the attorney's offices. And I spoke to him for about 35 minutes. This was just a week, oddly enough, after I had spoken to the Levys in Modesto.

KING: How is this? Did Abbe Lowell set it up with you?

BACHRACH: Abbe Lowell did. He suggested that it was likely I was going get an interview, and indeed that did come to pass. I wasn't sure it would happen. But it did happen.

KING: Overall impression, Judy?

BACHRACH: He -- the Congressman was very, very tense. I was just telling my family he looked sort of like a comma, his head was sort of hunched over his body, and his body looked fairly frail at this point. He looked very nervous. He had lost a lot of weight. He was in running shoes, slacks, and a windbreaker. And he looked very thin, very gaunt and pretty worn out. He could barely talk. His voice had given out. So he was clearly prepping for the interviews ahead. He had clearly been well prepped by his lawyer. And he was very nervous.

KING: Connie Chung reported earlier tonight -- and we don't have transcript yet -- but she said that Condit acknowledged a 5-month relationship with Chandra, described it as close, but say whether it was sexual. What did he say to you in that regard?

BACHRACH: He described it with me, too, as close. However, I referred to it as sexual, I referred to it as liaison, a romantic liaison, and I talked about affair. And in no instance did he correct me. In no instance did he say no, that wasn't how I would characterize it. So he pretty much gave me leeway to talk about it as such and to write about it as such.

KING: So therefore, you gather even though he didn't say it as such, by acknowledging it or not dissuading you of what you were saying, he did acknowledge it.

BACHRACH: Correct, any time he felt I was wrong he immediately jumped in and corrected me. In this instance, he did not. Moreover, I said to him very specifically that the Levy family felt that their daughter was very much in love with the congressman, that she had talked about it as being a long term relationship. She described their relationship together as one of incredible romance. She would dance with the congressman in his kitchen to Frank Sinatra music. And when her mother said, well, what is his name, this congressman? She said I can't tell you, until about -- for another five years. So that is...

KING: You interviewed the Levys for this article, too.

BACHRACH: Yes, last week I interviewed them. And so...

KING: When you brought that up, what did he say.

BACHRACH: When I told him I thought Chandra Levy was very much in love with him and probably wanted a marital future with him, with children, he said I have never discussed a long-term relationship with Chandra, I have never discussed love with Chandra, I have never discussed marriage or children with Chandra. I am married to one woman, Carolyn Condit, and I will be for as long as she will have me. That was a very telling phrase, I thought.

KING: Did you ask about the other charges? The stewardess for example, who appeared on this show for an hour.

BACHRACH: Indeed I did.

KING: What did he say?

BACHRACH: I talked to him about Ann Marie Smith, and he seemed to be very angry at Ann Marie Smith, the stewardess who claimed that she had been asked by his lawyer to sign an affidavit which was untrue, in her eyes, namely, that she had never had an affair with Mr. Condit. And he said he had never asked her to lie, and that he felt that the stewardess Ann Marie Smith was motivated by profit, and was motivated by a desire for publicity.

I have to say, I have never seen an article that suggested Ann Marie Smith was particularly motivated by profit. But he is quite insistent on that point and he is very angry at her.

KING: Didn't deny it, though.

BACHRACH: He did deny that he had ever asked her to lie about the relationship.

KING: I mean the sexual relationship.

BACHRACH: He did not deny the sexual relationship, no.

KING: What about mystery of dumping the watch in Alexandria, Virginia -- nowhere near where he lives?

BACHRACH: Well, he dumped...

KING: The watch box.

BACHRACH: ...the watch box, I was told by a very good friend of his, in a package of McDonald's french fries. He had gone out to buy a hamburger and french fries for his wife Carolyn and he then drove with an aide to Virginia, and dumped that watchbox inside a package of McDonald's french fries and then threw it in trash.

KING: And what did he say to you?

BACHRACH: And when he -- I asked him why he dumped it, he started laughing. He said that watch box was just trash, it was just trash. And I was surprised at that. Because of course people were interested in it. And it might have been material in some sense. But he said it had nothing to do with Chandra Levy, which of course it didn't.

That watch box was given to him by another woman. And that it was, moreover, not from his apartment, which everybody was saying. The police were searching the congressman's apartment. He said he had taken it from his office, his Congressional office. And so, therefore, presumably, it wasn't as germane, and not as important. And he thought...

KING: Why did he drive so far away to do it?

BACHRACH: Well, you must ask him that, but he obviously not only drove far away, but according to his aide, he put it within another box, a box of french fries. So when I said to him I bet you know that the police department of D.C. leaking like a sieve and that any present that you got from any woman would be the next day's headline and I'm sure why you dumped it as well, he didn't deny that. He said, part of it was really that it had nothing to do with the Chandra Levy case. And it wasn't in my apartment.

KING: We will spend more moments with Judy Bachrach. This is her first interview. She just interviewed the Congressman. She's also interviewed the Levys. They were here last week. The article will appear in December. We will be right back with Judy Bachrach and later our panel. And we will also be talking with Tonya Harding, who was interviewed during her crisis by Connie Chung. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: What you are looking at is a rally tonight. The venue is the Veterans Memorial Building in Merced, California. The rally is a grassroots coalition in support of Gary Condit. And similar to the last rally -- I wouldn't say -- I guess sparsely attended at this point.

And as you know, Judy Bachrach, a letter went out today received by his constituents. I just want to read a portion to you and get your comments. It said, "Dear friends and neighbors, Chandra Levy has been missing for nearly four months. I am sorry that the pain the Levy family and Chandra's friends has grown worse with each passing day. When Chandra's dad called me to tell me she was missing, he asked for my help. I contacted the police to see if a reward fund would help find her. They said it would so I helped start one and since that day and every day since, I have cooperated an worked with law enforcement to help find Chandra. I invited the police to my apartment, I asked the FBI to help."

What did he say to you, Judy, about his feelings about the Levys, and also why he hasn't contacted them on a regular basis?

BACHRACH: He seemed to be, if I if I interpreted it correctly, quite angry at the Levys.

KING: Angry at the Levys.

BACHRACH: Yes. He didn't say that, OK. I'm just interpreting that. He said that they had overstepped the line, that was a quote. They had stepped over the line when they accused me, meaning the Levys accused Condit of being suspicious, of acting in a suspicious manner, or he said, least of all, of having anything to do with the disappearance of Chandra Levy. So he seems to be quite annoyed. He is more over annoyed that a story that he, Condit, might have had an affair with the daughter of a minister in California, in his hometown came out. And he denied it absolutely. He said. and indeed the FBI denied it, too.

KING: Why -- sorry, go ahead

BACHRACH: He was angry about this in part because he felt the news media particularly "The Washington Post" should have figured out that this was not going to be a true story. And he said the fact that this minister worked as a gardener also for the Levys, should have tipped people off. It should have made the news media very suspicious about the story.

KING: Did you he is not cooperating with the Levy's investigators, why he didn't take a lie detector test given by the police or the FBI, and why he isn't compassionate, in calling Levy, no matter what his feelings, it is their daughter?

BACHRACH: He claims he did speak to the Levys, particularly at the beginning. And as you know, Mrs. Levy says, she said to him right away, are you having an affair with my daughter? And his reply was, no, I'm not.

He says he cooperated with the Levys. He doesn't remember Mrs. Levy ever asking him such a question. He implied that Mrs. Levy was under intense pressure, and perhaps she was remembering wrong. He is a guy who, let's face it, did not have to take a lie detector test at all. You might well ask yourself why he did take the private one.

It was, perhaps, not a very good idea if you are not going take a police lie detector test, which is his right, not to take a very private lie detector test because that is automatically suspect and found suspicious by the media. The fact that he did take that, that he then let the news out to the media, put him -- rather than improved his position -- put him under even greater suspicion.

People are now saying, why didn't he talk to the cops? But, of course, as his lawyer said to me, I don't know that Jesus Christ could have passed a lie detector test given by the cops. And that is possible. A lot of people get very nervous.

KING: I know, when cops do it, it makes you nervous. Connie Chung said that Condit said Levy did not seem upset in their last phone conversation, this is Chandra, they talked about her travel plans. He said the same to you?

BACHRACH: He did, and I said, well were you about to break up with her, or did you break up with her? And his reply was interesting. He said, Chandra and I have never had a cross word with each other. I said but congressman, that is not what I asked. I said, did you break up with her or you were about to?

And he said, not at all. That as everyone knew he goes out to California regularly, every weekend. Chandra was about to go off to California by train, he said, and he said he would have continued their friendship. That was his word. He would have continued their friendship had she not disappeared.

KING: So if he is not denying, when you mentioned it, sexual and he is saying he would continue their friendship, in a sense he was saying the relationship would have continued.

BACHRACH: That is correct. That is the impression I got.

KING: The cover line on "People" magazine, that will be out tomorrow, says, blunt one moment, ducking tough questions the next. Did he do the same with you?

BACHRACH: That is true. I was very specific with him on one specific issue which was very important, which was why didn't he, Congressman Condit, tell the police right away he was having an affair with Chandra Levy? That was very important, the cops felt.

And I asked this two or three times. And most of the times he said something along the lines of "I answered every question that was put to me." "I gave the police all they needed to know." In other words, what he was saying is, hey, they didn't ask me that vital question. And I might add, they probably should have asked that vital question so why should I offer it.

So he does duck, but at other times, he is very up-front. He is not denying he had a love affair. He is not denying that it was a five month duration. And he is not denying obviously that he is a married man. And when I asked him about his political future, he was not the upbeat guy I thought he would be. He said essentially, whatever happens, happens.

KING: How is his wife handling it?

BACHRACH: Well, he says fine.

KING: All right. You didn't see her?

BACHRACH: No. She was not there.

KING: Children were not there?

BACHRACH: And the children were not there. I did ask about Chad Condit, his son, who hoped to run for assembly in California -- assemblyman -- and I said how do you feel about that? The guy has huge political ambitions, and now his career, at least this year, is shot. And he didn't deny it. He said unfortunately my situation has impacted on members of my family, but, he said, hey, Chad is getting more money working for Governor Gray Davis now than he would have as assemblyman so maybe it is all for the best.

KING: You made a statement earlier that his wife -- the marriage will last as long as she stays with him. Did he comment at all about what the wife thought of Chandra?

BACHRACH: No. He didn't he did not discuss that. No.

KING: All right, then finally, Judy, do you think he is going to be able to put this away tonight?

BACHRACH: Tonight, no. And I don't know that he even thinks so. I think he was fairly blunt with me when he said I have no idea how this is going to shake out. I think the phrasing of that letter was probably a difficulty. He did not apologize. He probably should have done so.

Perhaps for legal reasons he didn't apologize, but in any event he did not. So I think his constituents are going to be continuing to worry about him. And I think he knows that.

KING: Thank you, Judy.

BACHRACH: My pleasure.

KING: Thanks for being with us, Judy Bachrach, an old friend. She is the contributing editor for "Vanity Fair." She did an interview with Gary Condit yesterday. It will appear -- and the Levys as well, last week -- it will appear in the December issue of "Vanity Fair."

When we come back our panel assembles. This is LARRY KING LIVE, don't go away.


KING: Our panel is now assembled. What you are seeing on your screen is the Levy home in Modesto, California as the Levys prepare to watch this interview tonight. Joining us in Washington, Barbara Olson. In New York: Nancy Grace. Here in Los Angeles: Cynthia Alksne. And in Washington: Julian Epstein, and Michael Zeldin as well.

Let's go around the horn. We will start with Cynthia right here. What did you make of what we just heard from Judy Bachrach?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I thought she was fascinating. And the most interesting thing to me is I don't get any sense that he has any regrets about the manner in which he handled this. He doesn't appear to -- you know, he just dismisses immediately that he lied to Mrs. Levy, that's her fault. "The Washington Post" story is "The Washington Post's" fault, this is the media's fault. Everybody's fault, everybody's fault. But there are no: "Gee, I wish I had done it differently." There's no self -- there's revelation at all that he's been wrong.

KING: Julian?

JULIAN EPSTEIN, FMR. HOUSE JUDICIARY COUNSEL: I guess I have to agree with Cynthia. One of the things that I found that was particularly interesting in the interview with the reporter from "Vanity Fair" is this notion that the watch box was thrown away inside the McDonald's french fries box. I mean, if there's anything that's more exculpatory, that is it. The notion that this guy could somehow be responsible for disposing a body, when there's something as schlocky as the disposing of a watch box in that way. I mean, I've never heard anything more exculpatory in this case than that.

But I agree with Cynthia, and I think to the extent that there is a template of what he is going say tonight with Connie Chung, we see it in the letter. And I think, with all due respect, the letter was a disaster, a public relations disaster on his part, for the reason that Cynthia pointed out. He seems to be saying, his central theme is that he's been treated unfairly.

It may be true that he's been treated unfairly, but if that's the theme, if that's the theme, then he and his team have fundamentally misperceived the public relations dimension of this, which is that he's got to accept responsibility, he's got to have some greater connection with Chandra. He's got to show that he's distraught by the fact that she disappeared, and he's got to be much more specific about some of these questions. If he's perceived as ducking questions, it's the kiss of death for him.

KING: Nancy Grace? What was your read on what Miss Bachrach had to say?

NANCY GRACE, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, I also found her revelations fascinating, and I'm looking at this from a different angle. I really don't care about Condit's political future. I'm still looking at everything he says and does from an evidentiary point of view.

Larry, the law has taught me that you may observe someone's behavior before, during and after an incident. And what strikes me as incredibly odd is that at no time has he exhibited any sorrow about his lover, his sweetheart probably dead. And I find that very interesting, from an evidentiary point of view.

KING: Michael Zeldin, what do you make of it?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, FMR. INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Well, I think that Gary Condit is going to have a difficult road ahead of him, and that these interviews are not going to satisfy his critics. It's curious to me that he's chosen this point in time to start speaking, because Nancy Grace is never going to be satisfied, no matter what he says. Nor will Barbara when you ask her. So I'm not sure what the end that he's trying to achieve here is.

I think people would like, on his team, for him to be perceived as a human being who is suffering from this investigation, and who is cooperating as best he is able to with this investigation. I just don't know that he's going to be able to accomplish it.

The interesting thing to me from the "Vanity Fair" interview, is that he did play a little bit fast and loose with the police about the nature of his relationship with Chandra Levy. But this notion that he lied to the police, that is, that he was asked an affirmative question and lied, seems to have been discredited by her -- that there was no such question and there was no lie. And so there was no misleading of the police, and there was no obstruction based on what she told us.

KING: Barbara Olson, your read on what Ms. Bachrach had to tell us?

BARBARA OLSON, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think that Michael Zeldin has just read facts not in evidence. I mean, Gary Condit -- it's interesting, what Judy said was that Gary Condit told the police what they needed to know. And you'll recall, that was one of his press statements that Maria Ein put out, and we said how does he know what the police need to know? You're supposed to tell the police everything. You don't know what facts they have.

So I think what I got out of this is arrogance. I think everyone was right, there is no grief. There is no remorse. There is no sense of responsibility that he did anything wrong. And then to attack Anne Marie Smith, to accuse her of doing this for money? We watched her on your show. This wasn't a woman who had taken money, and in fact, this was a woman who was terrified of coming forward, but she thought it was important. So I think...

KING: Her friends, in fact, took money.

ALKSNE: Yes, her friends took money. Her roommates took money and sold her out and still haven't told the truth about it, so -- I mean, that's that is outrageous attack by him.

OLSON: But she did not. I mean, the fact is, Anne Marie Smith did not take money, and Gary Condit seems to want to blame everyone else for what has happened. It's the media, it's Anne Marie, it's not him.

KING: Let me get a break. We'll be back with more of our panel. In a little while we'll get some thoughts from Tonya Harding who, you remember, when she had her calamitous time with the press seven years ago, her first interview was with Connie Chung. We'll be including your calls later as well. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: Once more, the pro-Condit rally tonight -- doesn't appear to be a lot of people. They just seem to be -- somebody is speaking, I guess, But anyway, that's the rally, the grassroots coalition in support of Gary Condit.

Julian Epstein, what do you make of the rally tonight?

EPSTEIN: Well, again, I think it just shows bad judgment from a public relations point of view. I know Nancy doesn't want to talk about public relations, but it's bad judgment. This is a very somber moment. this is an opportunity for him to accept responsibility, to say that he cares about Chandra Levy, you know, explain all the questions that need to be answered. It's not a time for public rallies, that's why I don't particularly like the fact that there's a "Vanity Fair" or a "People" magazine article. I think that it -- it denigrates the seriousness of the moment, and that's what I don't like about it.


KING: Nancy, do you think that he is not treating this -- I mean, he -- what do you make of how he appears to be handling it?

GRACE: Well, as usual, Larry, it's all about Gary Condit, and I know the man is trying to save his political career. But you know what, of course, obviously, he should have thought about that during the string of affairs. But back to Chandra Levy -- the girl, I hate to say it, the girl is dead. And all this is about is his political...

KING: We don't know that.

GRACE: Statistically speaking, she's more likely than not no longer with us. I'm just basing that on the evidence that we've got. And it seems to me that this is all about political spin. And on this one issue, I do agree with Julian. I think that a rally, an upbeat rally, is not appropriate at this time.

KING: Wouldn't it have been smart, Cynthia, just to be more -- apparently, we haven't seen the Chung interview yet -- more contrite. More...

ALKSNE: Of course. You would think that's basic, that that would be PR 101. In fact, there are some indications coming out of the Condit camp that they are now distancing themselves from this pathetic excuse for a letter, which is more of a pity party than any form of apology. And it includes outright lies, you know, things like, "since that day I have cooperated." He has not cooperated with the police since that day. In fact, he's putting little things in french fry containers and running to the McDonald's. And he's not telling the police about the story. He's not...


GRACE: "I invited police into my apartment" -- paren -- after I cleaned it out. "I cooperated with the FBI, but not with the polygraph. I mean, the whole letter is false.

ALKSNE: And he's calling it his best attempt, and he can't -- first of all, he's attacking now the family, "Vanity Fair," saying they never asked me about it. He didn't remember -- that's just outrageous. And we know from the Levys that he actually lied to them and now refuses to meet their investigator. So that is not...

KING: Are you surprised, Michael, that he's angry at the Levys?

ZELDIN: Yeah -- no, I'm not surprised that he's angry at the Levys, because I think that he feels that he has been forthright with the Levys, and that he is upset, I think, that they would consider him a murder suspect.

KING: But they have a missing daughter

ZELDIN: Well, they have a missing daughter, I understand that. And I think that he feels the pain of having a missing daughter. I don't think that he has anything but anger to feel about someone who is calling him a murderer.



KING: I have to get a break. Hold it, Michael. I've got to interrupt you there. We've got to take a break. When we come back, we will spend some moments with Tonya Harding, who has had a -- remembers her days with Connie Chung as well. We'll get her thoughts on all of this, and then back to our panel. Don't go away.


KING: Before we get back to our panel, we wanted to spend a few moments with Tonya Harding, who joins us from Portland, Oregon. During the midst of the media frenzy surrounding Nancy Kerrigan's attack back in 1994 connected with the Olympics and everything, she gave her first big media interview to Connie Chung. Everyone wanted to talk to Tonya Harding. How did Connie get that interview, Tonya?

HARDING: Well, it was all put together with my agent at the time. And she was very, very considerate and very nice at the time. And once we started the whole process of getting into the interviews and everything, it became a little bit more pushy, but that is because everyone wanted to know what was going on. And it was very hard at that time. It was very difficult to deal with, seeing as how it kind of took away the friendship and the motherness between my mother and I. And now I am very fortunate to say that I have got a relationship back again with my mom.

KING: Was she fair.

HARDING: My mother was in Portland...

KING: No. Was Connie Chung fair to you?


KING: Yes.

HARDING: I would say in the beginning she was. But then in the end she was not. And I ended up stopping the interview that I had started with her.

KING: Why?

HARDING: Because she started asking too many questions that I had already told her time and time again I would not be able to answer. Not just because of myself, but because of my lawyers telling me I should not answer those things.

KING: But she was -- that is just doing your job isn't it? I mean, that is her job...

HARDING: Doing her job to a point. But when you go ten times asking the same question in different ways, it becomes a little bit annoying. And it gets to the point where you have to put your foot down and just say I'm sorry, but this interview is over. KING: You never went back to her? You ended it?

HARDING: I ended it at that point. And I told her -- I said, "Connie thank you very much for this interview, but I'm sorry. It is over now." And I got up and I left.

KING: The interview aired though, didn't it? I mean, edited and aired.

HARDING: Yes, it did. It did.

KING: Was the final airing fair?

HARDING: I really -- I really am not sure. I didn't watch lot of it because I needed to concentrate on what I was there to do. I was there to be able to compete in the Olympic Games do the best that I could do.

KING: What did you -- how did you deal with all that media attention you were getting? The whole world was after you, and -- what was that like? You were going through what Condit is going through...

HARDING: It was absolutely horrible. It was horrible. Not having any privacy whatsoever, having the media try and have my vehicle towed, not being able to go and skate at my own time at my own rink without having someone shoving a camera in my face, or tripping me or something. There was always something going on. And it was very difficult, and I really do not like to see anyone have to go through the same things that I went through with the media. They can be pretty ruthless sometimes.

KING: Do you think we -- the collective "we " -- have gotten better or worse since you?

HARDING: Well, there is a certain -- there is a certain amount of you who are absolutely wonderful. And then there's a certain amount of you who I would never give interview to again.

KING: Because of this herd mentality and because of the way you were treated.

HARDING: Absolutely. I mean you treat people the way you want to be treated. And if someone wants an interview with me they will treat me with respect and they will give me a little bit of leeway on the way I want to be, also.

KING: Is it hard when you are in middle of this to get the public to have sympathy for you?

HARDING: I'm not looking for anyone to give me any sympathy. I'm just there to state the facts and the truth, and then to go on and do what I want to do -- which was to skate and be at the Olympic Games and do the best that I could and hopefully win a gold.

KING: Do you feel some empathy for Mr. Condit and his family? HARDING: I am not going to comment on anything when it has to that because I do not know all the facts. I have not been listening to it, because the media does not portray the absolute truth. And so I am just concentrating on myself and my career and things that I am doing in my life.

KING: Thanks, Tonya. It's always good seeing you.

HARDING: Well, thank you, Larry. And I wished I could be there and give you a big hug.

KING: Tonya Harding in Portland, Oregon. When we come back, the panel resumes. Don't go away.


KING: We are back with our panel. One part of the letter that we found interesting as well: "I will be interviewed on television and hopefully I will be able to answer questions that help people understand. It is not something I look forward to. But things have gone on long enough." Barbara, what do you make overall of this whole letter?

OLSON: Well, I mean, the letter, I think, is an indication of what we just heard from Judy with "Vanity Fair." And I'm assuming what we are going to hear tonight is things have gone on long enough. Not that I have caused them. It seems as though Gary Condit feels that things around him have gone on long enough, and -- you know, it's interesting before you were talking about the political PR side.

If you look back at people like Gary Hart, who refused to admit and refused to apologize, and look what happened to his career.

And then you see people, I mean the famous, as obviously the checker speech with Nixon, or even Senator Kennedy, after what happened at Chappaquiddick, he went on television and he apologized and said that would live with him the rest of his life. Those kinds of things allow us to forgive.

And if his talk tonight with Connie Chung, he says -- we had a close friendship, and doesn't admit the relationship, doesn't answer whether he loved her, whether -- if he denies that indeed he told her he would marry her, or that they would have children, then we've got this picture of Chandra must have been delusional. Anne Marie Smith is a liar and someone after money, and I guess Joeleen McKay whom he paid on his staff when he was having an affair must also be delusional. It's not a pretty picture.

EPSTEIN: You know, Larry, this notion that if you just admit wrong doing, if you are sorry, if you ask for forgiveness, that it works, reciting the Checkers speech and so on, that is not always the case. Remember James Swaggert, of course "I have sinned."

Remember Phil Crane, an Illinois congressman in 1981 who had a sexual affair with a congressional page, had a teary eyed mea culpa on the House floor. His voters kicked him out the next year. I think if Gary Condit, what he is going to say tonight is this and I don't associate myself with the strategy, I think it is a mistaken strategy, but he is going to say, look, I had a secret affair. It was wrong. I made one mistake which is when the police asked me if I was having a sexual relationship, I said well, I have a personal relationship...

KING: Do you think he is going to say that tonight?

EPSTEIN: I think he is going to say that he had a personal relationship with her, read into that what you will. I think he will also say that the police, at that point, people keep talking about obstruction, and we were just talking about this off camera, the police at that point even in the first interview, I'm certain, knew that there was a sexual affair going on.

They had already spoken to other family members, so you really have to ask the question, even though you can't justify the fact that he wasn't forthcoming to the police, nobody has really demonstrated how that has really deleteriously impacted the investigation other than just simply asserting.

And I think that he is essentially saying that I'm being convicted in a kind of a mob like media mentality with no evidence of any wrongdoing, but this has become kind of a like a mob mentality and it is really just a sideshow.

KING: A lot of it, Cynthia, is how it is said, right?


KING: How does he look.

ALKSNE: There are two big questions there: Is he involved in her disappearance and/or murder? And is he a weasel and has he not been fair honest and somebody who we can all respect? This was his chance to deal with the weasel aspect.

KING: We don't know yet how well he did.

ALKSNE: So far, big flunk on the weasel aspect.

KING: Michael Zeldin, would you agree or agree with that?

ZELDIN: Well, I don't know, I haven't seen the interview.

KING: From what we know, from reading Judy Bachrach, assuming that nothing huge breaks beyond that, what do you make of it?

ZELDIN: First and foremost is I think we have come to the conclusion that Gary Condit has had nothing to do with Chandra Levy's disappearance. He is not a criminal suspect. He has done nothing wrong, as Julian just said. His conduct has done nothing to obstruct the police investigation and Cynthia and others on the show have been calling him a murderer for quite a long time. So to extent at least we have put behind us his involvement in her disappearance is important.

ALKSNE: I'm not calling him a murderer and.

ZELDIN: You did, Cynthia.

ALKSNE: I have never called him a murderer. I have never -- I have said that -- this is sufficiently important that I am going to interrupt you even though as a general rule I think interrupting is rude -- I'm going to do it because you just said something very wrong.

I have never called him a murderer. I think he makes my little prosecutors nose twitch because of all the suspicions! But any fair- minded person knows that we don't know exactly what happened to her, and it is too soon to say that. And as a general rule this is a guy who is too stupid, this is a guy who can't even throw away a watch case. He probably can't pick up his own shirts, and he may very well have absolutely nothing do with this murder. My point as always, that he has hindered this investigation. He has let the trail...

ZELDIN: How -- how?

ALKSNE: Because he lied to the family, because he got Anne Marie Smith to lie.

ZELDIN: How do you know that he lied to the to police at all?

ALKSNE: He tried to get Ann Marie Smith to lie because he threw away evidence, and those types of -- that hurts the case. Wait, Michael -- and then, it makes it impossible to prosecute somebody who actually did do this case, and that is what I'm mad about. Not that he is a murderer because I don't know that yet.

ZELDIN: Please, you are telling me that you couldn't prosecute the murderer of somebody, if there is one in this case? Because he didn't, in the first interview, talk about whether his relationship was --


ALKSNE: Yes, I think it is dramatically more difficult because of his behavior...

ZELDIN: I don't know how many trial you have had, Cynthia, but that is not the case.

ALKSNE: ... because -- I have had a lot of trials, and defense attorneys like -- Geragos, one of my buddies, and lots of other people, will use the fact that Condit has done in this investigation, and use them like bombs in the courtroom.


KING: One at a time, please. Hold it. One at a time.

EPSTEIN: Pick up on Michael's point if you can because I think it is an important point. I don't like the throwing way of the watch box. I don't like the Anne Marie Smith. I don't like if he did, in fact, misrepresent to the family. But the central fact that Michael, I think, is pointing out here is nobody has really indicated, even while that is reprehensible conduct, nobody has indicated what everyone keeps repeating, which is that it impeded the investigation.

Lay out for us, if you could, Cynthia, how, specifically, when he wouldn't give the specific facts about the intimate nature of the relationship, how did that impede the investigation by the police when the police already knew at that point, because they had spoken to family members that there was a sexual affair. How did that impede the investigation?

ALKSNE: Here is what happens in a criminal investigation. The most logical suspects are looked at first. And when the most logical suspect who is having a secret 007 affair can't even get his haircut and use his own name, when the most logical suspect comes into the police, and will not answer the simplest question about a relationship.

EPSTEIN: One question -- which police knew the answer to, Cynthia. ALKSNE: Let me finish, Julian. What happens is everybody focuses their attention and all their resources on that person. That means whoever murdered her, because you don't think it is him, whoever murdered her is off running away. And all of the focus and the resources...

EPSTEIN: You are not answering the question.

ALKSNE: I'm trying to explain it to you. The D.C. police department has limited resources and because of his behavior they have focused what few resources they have on him and it has wasted everything.

EPSTEIN: It is a much simpler matter. The police knew the answer to the question about the nature of the relationship. And if they did they should have known. What was the damage that was done to the investigation?

KING: I have got to get a break and we will come back and get comments from out other panelists. Don't go away.


(CHANTING): Go home, go home, go home, go home!



KING: Let's include a caller for a refreshing change of pace. Turlock, California, hello.


KING: Hi. CALLER: My question is, why are we surprised with Gary Condit's arrogance? Because I feel if he felt bad at all or had any, you know, compassion for the family or Chandra, he would have come out from the beginning and spoke to the parents. That is what I see. I see this as a human being that he should have just came out with some compassion.

KING: Nancy, that is the thing, and that lady lives in his district, that is the thing that bothers a lot of people, right? That he doesn't appear to have had a great deal of compassion.

GRACE: That is right, Larry and that is what I was mentioning at the beginning of the show. I have often watched criminal defendants for their reactions throughout the proceedings. And even from the get-go, even up through this letter and I predict through the Chung interview tonight we'll see no compassion for the death or disappearance of Chandra Levy. This letter is full of lies and finger pointing and I imagine that is what the spin will be tonight with Connie.

KING: Barbara.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But she has called him a criminal defendant.

OLSON: I do agree with Nancy and I think what Cynthia was saying was absolutely right. No one wants to look at what Condit has done to this investigation. But anyone who has prosecuted cases knows that if the police are spending time deciding whether Gary Condit was involved in the disappearance of Chandra Levy. They are not looking elsewhere.

The police had to figure out was -- did they break up? Was she pregnant? They have had to follow all these leads, where Gary Condit, if he is cooperating from the beginning, they could wipe that away, they can go elsewhere. And the problem with where we are today is his staff did come out and made statements that were untrue. They lied.

I hope Connie Chung clears up whether he asked them to lie. I hope Connie Chung does clear up the relationship. Because I think if, as I believe will happen, Gary Condit refuses to admit to a sexual relationship, then what we are going to get is not somebody who is going to tell us the truth. He is going to give us a Bill Clinton.

KING: Judy Bachrach -- Judy Bachrach said that when she referred to is as sexual he didn't deny it.

OLSON: Oh. He said nothing. And Bill Clinton can tell us what a sexual relation is. Come on. If Gary Condit is going to go on television, and is going to talk to people and send the letter that he sent, where he said he wants to explain things, then he can't say, "we have a close personal friendship."

KING: I've got to get a break. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) told me last night -- the thought of her running out of the house and leaving her wallet and everything, just running down. A friend of mine who lives in Manhattan said that women in apartments do that all the time, run down for ice cream. Just grab the money, run down and get ice cream and come back. That's not uncommon.

OLSON: Her friends evidently have told the police that she was not like that, she was much more cautious about that. I believe that is correct.

KING: Oh, they have said that. All right. We'll be right back with our remaining moments. Don't go away.


KING: By the way, among -- as we see the, Levy house as they await watching the interview coming up on ABC. As we go to our final moments here, a reminder. Dominic Dunne, who has written about a lot of crimes in his time, will be one of our guests tomorrow night. And so too will be the writer who conducted the interview for "People" magazine on the stands in many locations tomorrow.

Let's run down. What could he have -- what should he have done today that would have satisfied you, Barbara? What should -- is he between a rock and -- did he have to come on and say "I miss her. I loved her. I'm so..." What he could have done that would have made you happy?

OLSON: I would have liked him apologize to the family, to Dr. and Mrs. Levy. I think that was appropriate. I would have liked him to have said "I had a relationship with her that wasn't proper." I wouldn't minded him to apologize to his family and his wife, but to admit what he did, say it was wrong, that he was changing. When people admit what they have done is wrong and they apologize, you feel as though there is going to be a change. When they justify what they have done you feel as though it is just going to keep on going.

KING: Julian, what do you think he could or should have would have done?

EPSTEIN: Well, his objective is to say that his role in this is still a sideshow, he's being convicted by a moblike media mentality. That's what he wants to say. He doesn't get there, though, unless, I think he listens to some of the advice, even from Barbara.

He, one, has to have an admission that some of his conduct was wrong. Secondly, he has got to express compassion first and foremost for Chandra, secondly for the family. Third is, if -- he has got to answer the questions with detail, with specificity. If he wants to -- this if he wants to survive in the court of public opinion, where he is being damned. He certainly feels like he is being unfairly damned. And if he wants to do it he has got to do these three things.

KING: Nancy, what does he have to do -- what could he, what should he do to make you feel kinder toward him?

GRACE: Well...

KING: Beyond confessing to a crime.

GRACE: True. The only thing that concerns me, Larry, is a red flag of him still continuing to evade the truth, still saying, "I cooperated with police, I cooperated with the FBI." And blaming...

KING: So he should have said the opposite tonight. He should say the opposite.

GRACE: He should come out with the truth and say, "You know what? I didn't cooperate. I lied. And this is why." And now he's blaming the Levys, Ann Marie Smith, in the end, everybody else is wrong but him. And it only leaves the lingering question, Larry -- what is left to lie about? What are you hiding?

KING: Michael Zeldin, what can he do tonight?

ZELDIN: Well, I don't know. There is nothing that he could do to satisfy me because his conduct was immoral. And the immorality of it is what is the overarching aspect of this. With respect to the criminal investigation, I think he has answered the question about whether or not he is, as Nancy calls him, a criminal defendant. And he is not. He has done nothing...

GRACE: I did not call him a criminal defendant.

ZELDIN: He has done nothing to impede the police and has had nothing to do with her disappearance. I think that that is the most important thing for anyone to hear from him. The immorality is such that -- if I were he, I think I would not run again. But that is a choice that he has to make.

KING: Cynthia, what could he do.

ALKSNE: I wanted him to say, "I'm going to meet with family's investigators as an act of good faith. And I haven't done that sooner." I really don't care if he takes another polygraph, because first of all, I would like this polygrapher that he used -- he is somebody I tried to use before, and I don't really blame him on a legal matter for not taking the police polygraph. But I do think he should meet with the investigators and I wanted, in addition to the contrition, I wanted to hear that he was going to do that. And he did not.

KING: You wanted complete contrition tonight.

ALKSNE: I wanted contrition, the way everybody said, but I wanted it with the family.

KING: Thank you, panel. More tomorrow night as we follow up the interviews and the various discussions that will go on today in print and on the media. We thank you very much for joining us. We wish Cynthia a lot of luck. She is going to sit in for Greta van Susteren Monday and Tuesday on "BURDEN OF PROOF." Good luck with that as she hosts that. We invite you to stay tuned now for CNN tonight. See you tomorrow night. Dominic Dunne and others will be with us. Thanks for joining us, and good night.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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