Breaking a long media silence, Rep. Gary Condit acknowledged in a broadcast interview with ABC's Connie Chung Thursday night that he had a "close" five-month relationship with Chandra Levy.
But the California Democrat repeatedly refused to answer questions from Chung about whether his relationship with Levy was sexual, saying only "I've been married for 34 years, and I've not been a ... a perfect man, and I've made my share of mistakes."
Asked whether he and Levy were in love, the 53-year-old married congressman said: "I don't know that she was in love with me. She never said so. And I was not in love with her."
Condit said he met Levy, then a Bureau of Prisons intern from Modesto, Calif., his home district, last October, and "we became very close."
The interview marked Condit's first extended public comments about Levy's disappearance, and the start of a public relations offensive by the seven-term congressman.
Preliminary Nielsen ratings indicated that 23.6 million viewers had watched the interview.
Chung opened the interview with a series of blunt questions about the 24-year-old woman's disappearance. Condit denied he had anything to do with her vanishing, knew anyone who wanted to harm her or had caused anyone to harm her.
"Did you kill Chandra Levy?" Chung asked. "I did not," the lawmaker said.
Condit offered no apologies for his involvement with Levy or his level of cooperation with police.
"I've answered every question truthfully. That's what you're supposed to do when you're cooperating with the police," he said.
Condit also denied that he had romantic relationships with two other women — flight attendant Anne Marie Smith and former aide Joleen McKay — who have publicly asserted they had affairs with the congressman.
Condit's wife and two children watched from a monitor in a nearby room of the ranch where the interview was staged, owned by a Condit friend in Modesto. Keeping his composure in answer to pointed questions, the congressman sat almost knee-to-knee across from Chung.
Condit refused to answer repeated questions about whether his relationship with Levy was sexual.
"... out of respect for my family, out of a specific request by the Levy family, it is best that I not get into the details of the relationship," Condit said.
Condit said he was honoring a request by Dr. Robert and Susan Levy, who said they wanted information that would help find their daughter, not details of any relationship she had.
Condit did provide a few sparse details. He said he met Levy in October and they spoke several times a week by telephone as they grew close. Condit said he liked Levy very much and they never exchanged a cross word.
The congressman took issue with several points made by Levy's relatives. Most significantly, he denied lying to Mrs. Levy about the nature of his relationship with her daughter.
Condit also said he and Levy never discussed a future together, having children or getting married, contradicting statements from Levy's aunt, Linda Zamsky.
The congressman also said he did not impose the strict secrecy rules that Zamsky said Levy related to her, rules that Smith, who claims a 10-month affair with Condit, also described. One of those rules was that when heading to a meeting with Condit, the woman was supposed to carry no identification.
"I never, ever told anybody not to carry their identification," Condit said.
Levy's identification, packed bags and other possessions were in her apartment when police searched it.
Condit provided a timeline of his contacts with Levy in the crucial days surrounding her disappearance.
They last saw each other April 24 or 25, he said, just after Levy's internship ended suddenly. They spoke for the final time on April 29, a conversation Condit said lasted a minute or so and encompassed Levy's plans to travel to California. "She wasn't upset about anything. She wasn't upset about losing her job," Condit said.
Condit said he phoned her again a day or two later, but Levy never called back. Condit was unconcerned because Levy talked about taking the train to California, which would have taken several days.
The next news he had was that she was missing. And it came from his wife, Carolyn, who received a call at home from Levy's father. "I was horrified," he said.
He said he has no idea what happened to Levy and denied having anything to do with her disappearance.
The Associated Press contributed to this report