House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt joined the growing chorus of Gary Condit's critics on Friday, calling Condit's statements in Thursday night's nationally televised interview "disturbing and wrong."
The Missouri congressman was one of many friends and foes who roundly criticized Condit's performance in the interview. More importantly, however, Gephardt's comments represented the first public sign the Democratic leadership in Washington is abandoning its support for the embattled California congressman.
"I do not believe he was candid and forward," Gephardt said in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He stayed in this zone of being evasive."
"I didn't hear candor, I didn't hear an apology," Gephardt added.
"As to his future, that rests with him and political constituents. I need to talk to my colleagues ... We're going to have to deal with the issues. ...
"What he said last night was disturbing and wrong," Gephardt told the Post-Dispatch. "I think it fell way short. It all adds to the general perception that politics are no-good and politicians are a bunch of bums."
Throughout the country, "evasive," "scripted," and "not forthcoming enough" were just some of the words being used Friday to describe Condit.
Billy Martin, the attorney for Chandra Levy's family, told Fox News' Rita Cosby Friday that Condit's answers were geared more toward salvaging his political future than offering information that would help find the missing intern.
"It is more important for him to save face with his constituents than to be forthcoming," Martin said. "The family is not going to be satisfied until he becomes more forthcoming and honest."
Martin said on NBC's Today show that Chandra's mother, Susan Levy, was "outraged" at the interview.
"She's very clear that she told Gary Condit, she asked Gary Condit, 'Were you, Congressman, having an affair with my daughter?' and the congressman said no. That is not a mistake. That is an outright lie.
"He's hiding something. Why he's hiding something, I don't know."
Flight attendant Anne Marie Smith, who says she had a romantic relationship with the California Democrat, reacted angrily to Condit's assertion that he did not have affairs with her and with former aide Joleen McKay.
"He's a sociopath," Smith told Fox News. "It's ludicrous for him to say everyone else is lying but him. I did not want to come forward. I came forward because he wanted me to lie.
"Do you think I wanted all of America to know I had a relationship with a married man? This man has no conscience."
In the TV interview with ABC's Connie Chung, Condit said he had nothing to do with Levy's disappearance. Asked if he loved Levy, he said no. Asked point-blank if he killed Levy, he said no. Asked if he had a sexual relationship with the 24-year-old, the married congressman said he would not reply out of respect for his own family and at the request of Levy's parents.
Condit, 53, acknowledged he had a "close" five-month relationship with Levy, but he adamantly refused throughout the interview to acknowledge that they were intimate.
Condit said he met Levy last October, and "we became very close." Asked whether they were in love, he said: "I don't know that she was in love with me. She never said so. And I was not in love with her."
Preliminary Nielsen ratings indicated that 23.6 million viewers had watched the interview.
President Bush wasn't one of them. He said during his press conference Friday that he had not watched the interview but had been briefed on it by his advisers.
Asked for his opinion of Condit, Bush said his focus is on Levy, not on the congressman. "This is about a family that lost a daughter," he said. "I'm not worried about the gossip or the Washington whispers. I'm worried about a young girl's life."
Bush said his concern was with the Levy family and that he hoped Chandra would be found alive. "That's where my heart is," he said.
Nick Bavaro, a friendly acquaintance of Condit, said the congressman had been evasive and was covering up. He called it "the worst job of damage control I've ever seen.
"This stuff of 'I've been married for 34 years and my family is intact' is just not going to fly in this district," Bavaro told Fox News. "He's been portraying himself as a victim of the media, which is arrogance at its best."
Asked to rate Condit's performance, Bavaro replied: "F-Minus."
Bar owner Mike Maloney watched with patrons at his Merced, Calif., establishment. He called his congressman "overprepared and a bit too slick."
Karen Johnson, a 43-year-old Modesto business owner, was bothered that Condit didn't discuss the details of his relationship with Levy, saying he was "evasive in his answers, and my perception is that his bigger interest is in protecting his own interests. I'm disappointed." A former supporter, Johnson said she would not vote for Condit again.
Wendy Crabb, 29, an executive assistant from Modesto who has voted for Condit, said she was "embarrassed and appalled by his lack of admittance and his shying away from the questions."
Another former supporter, John Mensonides, said, "I was hoping to see some humility and some candor and instead we saw evasiveness and arrogance."
Terrance W. Gainer, Washington's executive assistant police chief, disputed Condit's assertion that he had cooperated completely with investigators following Levy's disappearance on May 1. "It took us three interviews and a lot of effort to get as far as we got," Gainer said Thursday night.
Martin also took issue with Condit's level of cooperation and renewed his call for Condit to cooperate with Levy family investigators.
"He came forward only after pressure began to build and the facts of his relationship became public," Martin said.
Not all reaction to the publicity blitz was icy, as about 60 supporters gathered at a pro-Condit rally in Merced.
"I thought he cleared up some misinformation, I thought he was honest," said Sandra Lucas, chairwoman of Stanislaus County Democratic Central Committee, which is in his district.
Lucas said she thought Chung "pressed the affair thing to the point of boredom."
Democratic strategist Stan Gildenhorn said Condit provided "30 minutes of evasive answers" and called the effort an "unmitigated political disaster."
"If I had heard one more time that he has been married for 34 years, I would've been nauseous," Gildenhorn said.
Republican strategist Kim Serafin told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly that the congressman "pretty much went out there and called everyone liars."
The congressman did have his supporters among the pundits. Democratic strategist Ben Chao said Chung had loaded the interview with "sexual gotcha questions," and pointed out that such questions cropped up about 26 times in a 30-minute interview.
Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., called the "scripted" interview "a very painful hour to watch."
The Associated Press contributed to this report