Reaction to Condit letter mixed
MODESTO, California (CNN) -- Rep. Gary Condit broke his policy of not commenting publicly about the Chandra Levy investigation on Thursday, telling constituents in a letter that he had nothing to do with her disappearance and insisting he has been cooperative with investigators.
Initial reaction to the California Democrat's letter, sent out to 200,000 homes, was mixed.
"I guess I expected more substance," said Lisa Stewart, a self-described Condit supporter. "It didn't really say a lot that people didn't know."
Stewart said she had hoped the letter would have answered more questions and that it was "very disappointing" Condit hasn't explained himself in public.
What would she tell Condit? "You forgot about us," she said.
Asked if she would vote for Condit again, Stewart replied, "Oh, it's hard to say, but I don't think so."
Another Condit supporter, Inalee Bhend, had a more positive reaction.
Bhend 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."
Doing 'the best he can'
The letter is Condit's first public accounting of his behavior since the Levy controversy broke. Through aides, Condit issued an initial statement this spring, describing Levy as a "good friend." But as the investigation into Levy's disappearances intensified and speculation about Condit's relationship with the young woman grew, the lawmaker smiled for the cameras, but said nothing publicly.
Police sources have said that Condit admitted to them he had an affair with the former Federal Bureau of Prisons intern. His behavior prompted condemnation for his refusal to speak out and calls for his resignation.
But Rose Bettencourt, working at the farmer's market in Modesto, was sympathetic.
"I think he's doing the best he can," she said, adding that she felt the whole matter was "his business."
Bettencourt would vote for Condit again "because he's been good for the farmers."
Republican activist Nick Bavaro said he hopes for apologies to the Levy family and to his constituents "for not being truthful in the beginning of this matter."
Walking through 'a mine field'
Former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey said Condit will be walking through "a mine field" in an interview with ABC Wednesday night because of questions about whether the lawmaker has cooperated fully in the investigation.
"The relationship questions, which are going to be tough and embarrassing politically and personally in many ways, have the least legal peril because whatever may be his transgressions there, they typically are not going to implicate criminal law," Coffey said. "The concern really is what, if anything, has Condit done since this matter broke to delay, impede allegedly, to obstruct a possible investigation. "
Mike Doyle -- of Condit's hometown newspaper, The Modesto Bee -- said he heard four themes in the congressman's letter that he expected will be continued in a series of newspaper, magazine and television interviews.
"One is the pin the blame on the media with the references to the tabloid spectacle," Doyle said. "One is the assertion of full cooperation with the police. One is the carving of a moat around his private life. And one is the use of constructive ambiguity with references to not being perfect but with no explanation for what those imperfections are."
Condit did not do an interview with the Bee, Doyle said, because he "was unhappy with our editorials calling upon him to resign."
-- CNN's Bob Franken contributed to this report
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