Reeling from the harsh reaction to his Thursday television interview, Rep. Gary Condit blamed ABC's Connie Chung Friday for making him appear unsympathetic.
In a new interview posted on Newsweek's Web site, the California Democrat said he was not able to fully express his sympathy to the Levy family because Chung spent too much time pressing him on his relationship with Chandra Levy, who has been missing since May 1.
"I sat there the whole time with Connie Chung waiting for her ask me something other than a sex question," said Condit, who acknowledged having a close relationship with Levy but refused to specify further.
Condit said during the interview that he wanted to protect his family and the Levys, who he said had requested he not discuss the details of the relationship. He told Chung he had disclosed the details to law-enforcement officials.
From his constituency in California to his colleagues on Capitol Hill, the interview, intended to repair Condit's badly damaged image, has sparked a mostly negative reaction. The consensus has been that the congressman appeared evasive and uncooperative and did not show sufficient concern for Levy or her family.
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri called his fellow Democrat's statements "disturbing and wrong." Condit was not "candid and forward," Gephardt said of the interview with Chung. "He stayed in this zone of being evasive."
Gephardt, who spoke with St. Louis Post-Dispatch writers, also said he would talk to House Democrats about possible action against Condit, which could include removing him from the House Intelligence Committee.
Condit has said he plans to seek re-election to an eighth term next year, but won't make an official announcement for several months.
No one has been charged in Levy's disappearance from her Washington apartment nearly four months ago. Condit, 53, has been questioned four times by police, who say he is not a suspect.
After months of public silence, Condit told Chung that he had nothing to do with Levy's disappearance. He did not offer the apology many constituents said they were looking for, but said in the Newsweek interview that he wished he had been able to express sympathy for Levy's parents.
"I've heard them say a number of things that bother me and one is that they're suspicious of me, and that bothers me greatly," Condit told the magazine. "I liked Chandra very much, and I would never have done anything to hurt her. Next to them and probably her family, I'm the next person in line that would like to see her return."
The Levy family lawyer said Friday that her parents were angry and believe Condit is "hiding something." Washington police also disputed Condit's claim he had cooperated completely, saying they had to drag some information from him.
Condit's attorney, Abbe Lowell, said on CNN's Larry King Live that Condit would need more time to "change perceptions that people got built up over three months."
Lowell also criticized Chung for repeatedly pressing Condit on whether he and Levy had a sexual relationship. Condit said he is a married man who has made mistakes.
"I think Americans get it, I really do," Lowell said, adding that it would be inappropriate to discuss intimate details on national television.
The wave of negative reaction began Thursday after constituents received Condit's letter attempting to explain his role in the investigation. It continued after his interviews with ABC, a Sacramento TV station and People magazine.
"It was a public-relations disaster," said Nancy Snow, a political analyst at the University of California at Los Angeles. Instead of helping himself, she said, Condit was "just a guy having a meltdown."
Snow said politicians have made comebacks, but added, "I don't know if he'll do that. He just didn't come across as a likable person."
Some of Condit's constituents said they wanted to hear an apology or more remorse.
"Every decision that he has made to date smacks of putting his own interests first and that is not something that you expect of somebody you elect to represent you," said John Mensonides, 37, a financial adviser from Modesto.
Sandra Lucas, a Democratic leader in Modesto and Condit supporter, disagreed. She said Condit doesn't thrive in front of a camera but does better in parades, barbecues and personal meetings.
"A year from an election is a lifetime," Lucas said. "He has the opportunity to resurrect himself, but it's going to take a hell of a lot of work."
In an interview with the Merced Sun-Star, Condit said it might have been a mistake not to have spoken out earlier.
"In hindsight, maybe I should've," he said. "Maybe people wouldn't have been so critical of me. But I did everything that I thought I was supposed to do as an American citizen."
Democrats redrawing state congressional districts with new population figures have said they have maps that move Condit's district farther north, away from the conservative Democrats and Republicans he has long represented and toward the more blue-collar Democratic city of Stockton.
The Associated Press contributed to this report