Condit letter: 'I am not perfect'
CERES, California (CNN) -- Rep. Gary Condit broke his long silence Thursday about Chandra Levy, telling constituents in a letter that he has helped in the search for the former intern since he first heard she was missing and insisting his decision not to comment publicly should not be misinterpreted.
In the letter, the California congressman said he was "sorry that the pain the Levy family and Chandra's friends are feeling has grown worse with each passing day."
Condit, 53 and married, will get further opportunity to address public concerns about the 24-year-old's disappearance and the ensuing investigation tonight. ABC News will air an interview with Condit at 10 p.m. EDT, with local television station and CNN affiliate KOVR 13 showing its own interview at 11 p.m. PDT (2 a.m. EDT).
The congressman arrived on Thursday afternoon at a private ranch owned by his friend, Paul Warda, outside Modesto to tape the interviews. His wife, Carolyn, and two grown children were also at the ranch.
Reaction to Condit's letter from his constituents in California's 18th Congressional District -- which includes the city of Modesto, where the Levys live -- showed they were eager for word from the Democrat who has represented them in Washington for seven terms.
Condit supporter Inalee Bhend said the Levy case has damaged the public's trust in him, while Republican activist Nick Bavaro said he was looking for apologies to both the Levy family and Condit's constituents.
The letter, which CNN received from KOVR, arrived at constituents' homes on Thursday.
"Some suggest that not talking with the media could mean I had something to do with Chandra's disappearance. I did not. I pray that she has not met the same fate as the young women who have disappeared from the same (Washington, D.C.) neighborhood," Condit said.
Susan Levy, Chandra's mother, got Condit's letter Thursday in her mailbox. She complied with reporters' requests to read the letter in front of them, but as she scanned it, she changed her mind.
"I think I'm going to read it in my house first, OK?" she said, picking up the rest of her mail and hurrying inside.
'Things have gone on long enough'
Condit -- who has also agreed to talk with two national magazines -- wanted to "touch base with the citizens of his district" before the interviews begin, according to the letter, which lists Condit's hometown of Ceres on the letterhead and is dated August 22.
More than 200,000 letters were mailed Wednesday.
"Before speaking to the media, I wanted to write to you, I have known so many of you for a long time," Condit said. "You know me to be hard working, committed to our issues and dedicated to my community and my family. I hope you also will understand that I am not perfect and have made my share of mistakes."
"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."
Police are treating Chandra Levy's disappearance as a missing persons investigation and have named no suspects. They have said there are no signs of foul play. Levy was last seen April 30 in Washington.
Condit has come under fire because of his relationship with Levy, who was an intern with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Her family said Condit and Levy had an affair, something police sources say the lawmaker admitted to in one of four interviews with law enforcement authorities.
Interview to air tonight
The Democratic congressman said that despite his efforts to help police, "some in the media have criticized me for remaining 'silent.' "
"I have not been silent with those in charge of finding Chandra. I have answered every single question asked by the police and FBI," Condit said.
But Condit said that "when tabloids turned the tragedy of Chandra's disappearance into a spectacle and rumors were reported as facts, I decided that I would not discuss my private life in the media."
Thursday marks the first time since the Levy story broke around four months ago that the Congressman will personally answer journalists' questions about the matter.
Condit's first broadcast interview will be with ABC's Connie Chung, airing Thursday at 10 p.m. EDT. The KVOR interview is expected to follow about four hours later.
A Condit interview about Levy's disappearance will also be the cover story for People's September 3 issue, which will appear on newsstands Friday, People representatives confirmed to CNN. People magazine is owned by AOL Time Warner, the parent company of CNN.
The congressman will also be interviewed by Newsweek magazine, sources said.
Pledges accessibility to constituents
Thursday's letter ends with Condit assuring his constituents he will still work for their concerns.
"For now, I want my work in Congress to improve our communities. Please know that you can still bring me your concerns and your problems," Condit said.
"Thank you for the kindness you have shown Carolyn and my family.
"Sincerely, Gary Condit."
The letter also states that the document was not printed or mailed at public expense. Condit sources deny reports on CNN that they asked the appropriate officials in Washington whether the letter could be sent using congressional franking privileges, meaning it was paid at public expense.
The letter said it was "paid for by Condit for Congress, P.O. Box 1710, Modesto, CA 95353."
Back in Condit's California district, the congressman's constituents reacted.
Bhend, the Condit backer, said that for "a proud and decent man to come in front of people and apologize, to say that he's not perfect, that's a pretty big step for him." She said Condit needs to connect with his constituents.
"Their trust has been broken through a lot of confusing information," she said. "What he needs to do tonight is to reach out and begin the dialogue with the people here who have known him and trusted him for 30 years."
Bavaro, the Republican activist, said he hopes for apologies to the Levy family and to his constituents "for not being truthful in the beginning of this matter."
"I think we'll find out this evening how much he does know and how far he's willing to go. And then the public opinion in his congressional district will be formulated, and they'll make a decision if he's been forthright or if he's holding back."
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