Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., criticized two daily newspapers widely read in his congressional district Sunday after they published editorials calling for his resignation.
The written statement called the editorial pages of The Modesto Bee and The Fresno Bee "unfair". It was Condit's first public mention of the disappearance of 24-year-old intern Chandra Levy in more than a month.
"It is terribly unfair and disappointing that the Bee would have come to any decision about me without first allowing the investigation to continue and hearing what I have to say," Condit said, adding that his "30 years in public service should have earned me that much consideration."
Modesto is the largest city in Condit's district, as well as being Levy's hometown. Fresno lies outside the district, but its newspapers are widely read in the southern part of the 18th Congressional District.
Both newspapers, owned by the McClatchy newspaper group, published scathing editorials Sunday recommending that Condit step down, not because of any marital indiscretions, but because he has violated the public's trust.
"We've been giving him the benefit of the doubt," Mark Vasche, executive editor at The Modesto Bee, said in an interview. "Just being upfront and honest with the people who time and time again placed their trust in him ... We just came to the conclusion that he violated that trust."
"Both our editorial and Congressman Condit's conduct the past three months speak for themselves," Jim Boren, The Fresno Bee's editorial page editor, said Sunday evening.
Condit said the newspapers have run false accusations about him before, only to correct them later.
"The Bee's editorial," Condit said, "is another example of it following the media frenzy in this case rather than leading, by providing its readers with the truth."
Condit called the Bee's conclusion that he violated the public's trust by refusing to publicly disclose details of this case an "unfortunate misunderstanding" of the difference between his "cooperation with the police" and his "unwillingness to give in to media demands" by bearing all parts of his family's private life.
Levy, 24, disappeared May 1 in Washington, D.C. She had been an intern at the Bureau of Prisons and was planning to return home to California to receive her master's degree in public administration from the University of Southern California.
Levy met Condit, her 53-year-old, married congressman, last fall and began an affair with him, family members have said. Condit confirmed the affair in his third interview with investigators, according to a police source.
Police have said Condit is not a suspect in her disappearance.
Condit, in California while Congress is on break, has not appeared in public and Sunday's statement was the first comment concerning the Levy case the congressman had made since it was reported that he acknowledged the affair.
Condit said the newspapers did not appreciate that he wanted to spend some time with his wife and children "before I sat down for any public interview." Condit said he hoped his constituents would hold off on making any judgment until they hear what he has to say, which he added he plans "to do very soon."
It's Condit's silence — to both authorities and his constituents — that is the primary issue, not his affair, The Fresno Bee said.
"Even with a young woman's life at stake, Condit chose to protect his political career rather than help find a woman he claimed to be a friend. When decency was called for, Condit failed," The Fresno Bee said.
Still, Condit said he has "provided information to those who actually might be able to find Chandra Levy as opposed to those in the media who do not have that responsibility."
On Wednesday, Condit's hometown weekly newspaper, The Ceres Courier, also called for his resignation.
Aides to the California congressman dismissed that editorial as a partisan attack from a longtime critic.
"Too much has happened — and not happened — this year for him to remain this region's congressman," The Modesto Bee said. "Condit can restore some of his honor and dignity. He can set aside his own ambitions now and do what is in the public interest: resign."
The Associated Press contributed to this report