I wrote an article for Salon.com today which covers a good bit of the ground already covered in these virtual pages about the Gary Condit-Chandra Levy story -- particularly Condit's weird reluctance to issue any clear denials of most of the more damning allegations which have appeared in the press.
As I describe in the article, Condit's press secretary, Mike Lynch, and his lawyer, Joseph Cochette, were conspicuously unwilling to directly deny a Levy sleepover when I interviewed them (more details on this are in the piece). But already on Wednesday, Lynch at least seemed to be groping toward the new explanation that emerged on Thursday.
At one point when I was asking Lynch whether Levy had ever spent the night at Condit's apartment he said she wasn't there "that night." This immediately caught my attention because none of the press accounts had ever mentioned a specific night -- just that she had spent the night at his apartment. When I pointed this out, Lynch dropped that line of argument entirely and fell back on the standard restatements of Condit's denial of telling anyone about an overnight. (Again, I give a word for word run-down in the Salon article.)
When I spoke with Condit's lawyer, Cochette, on Wednesday he was unwilling to say anything more than what he had said in his letter to the Post. (See the article for the full quotation) But by Thursday morning he seemed to have picked up the specific night argument when he told Good Morning America:
"[She] absolutely did not" sleep over at Condit's, Cotchett said. "If she did, she had to spend it on a couch because Congressman Condit's wife was in Washington the entire week [before] she [went] missing."
Now, again, this is really just a textbook non-denial denial -- a vehement denial of a question that really wasn't the question. No one but Condit's folks ever brought up anything about a specific night in question.
I know from my own reporting that subtle attacks on the Levy family's credibility are starting to bubble up from the direction of the Condit camp. And even the stuff coming out of the Condit camp publicly is starting to get so cockamamy and weird that you start to wonder: what are we going to hear next, Condit announcing his search for the 'real killers'?
On a more serious note, let's take a look at Cotchett's statement on Good Morning America about the alleged Levy sleep over. Cotchett pointed out that a Levy overnight was implausible since Condit's wife was in town that week. According to this article in Friday's Washington Post, the actual days were April 28 to May 3, and Condit's wife only comes to DC two or three times a year.
I must confess to being a touch on edge because of how freely the Condit camp is throwing around talk of libel suits. But Condit's wife was in town for a fairly rare visit to DC at precisely the time when Levy was making repeated phone calls to Condit's answering service, and when she subsequently disappeared. Doesn't that raise some pretty obvious and pretty troubling questions?
Frankly, we're at a very touchy and difficult stage in this whole story. In their interview on MSNBC yesterday Levy's parents were pretty clearly turning on Condit, and at least entertaining the possibility that he might be involved in Chandra's disappearance. And the weirdness and stubbornness of Condit's non-denial denials are for the first time getting people in the media to seriously consider whether there may be some connection between the Condit-Levy relationship (of whatever sort) and her disappearance.
What makes this so touchy is that there is no real evidence at all pointing to any Condit connection to Levy's disappearance. Intriguing theories, no evidence. All there is is the increasingly strained, incredible, and bizarre nature of Condit's denials of an affair which cannot help but fuel speculation that there is something more than an affair to hide.
At this point though, it's worth remembering: as to any connection between Condit and Levy's disappearance, there are theories aplenty, but no real evidence.