This partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume panel discussion, July 5, 2001, was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.

BRIT HUME, HOST:  So what does it all mean?

We find out now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, joined by Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and Jeff Birnbaum, Washington bureau chief of Fortune magazine, Fox News contributors all.

And all have now read the latest utterance from Gary Condit's side in the Chandra Levy case in which he says -- after acknowledging that his wife, indeed, met with law-enforcement officials, he also goes on to say, "Unlike some" -- adds Abbe Lowell, the congressman's -- the congressman's lawyer, "Congressman Condit remains singularly focused on what is and
remains the central mission at this time, locating Chandra Levy.

"Congressman Condit hopes and prays for Chandra Levy's safe return.  It is his belief that the media can play an important role in helping this investigation reach a positive conclusion.

"It is also his belief," goes on Abbe Lowell, "that the media risks losing its focus on what has been a recent and seemingly unbounded effort to expose highly personal and private Condit family matters." What on -- whatever did he -- whatever could he be talking about?  I
ask you -- I ask you gentlemen.  Jeff, what does he -- what is this all about?  I think I know, but I want you to tell me.

JEFF BIRNBAUM, FORTUNE:  I think he's talking about the interview with Fox News Channel by a flight attendant, and...

HUME:  Well, it was also the earlier reports that he'd had a -- that Condit had had a relationship with that particular woman who...

BIRNBAUM:  That's right.

HUME:  ... confirmed it.

BIRNBAUM:  Who conf -- who confirmed it, and -- on -- in the interview with Fox News Channel and -- and said that Condit's legal team had asked her, in fact, to sign a -- an affidavit saying that they did not have such an affair.

HUME:  I wonder what it is about that affidavit -- that suggested affidavit that is a Condit family matter.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL:  Well, the highly personal family matter -- I mean, it's -- it's hugely embarrassing, so he's saying, "Don't look at me.  Look at that.  Look," I mean, "Keep -- keep our eye on Chandra Levy."

Well, Chandra Levy is not to be found.  Therefore, the media is focusing on what it has-- what is there to focus on, and new stuff keeps dribbling out all the time about Gary Condit and his highly personal, quote-unquote, "family matters."

HUME:  But do these highly personal -- I mean, if this were -- what we had found out here was that he had a relationship or maybe several relationships with various women.  The Washington Times reported in the last couple of days that police had interviewed some half-dozen women who say they -- I -- does that really tell us anything?

I mean, it seems to me the only thing that really matters here is that -- that he is accused here now by this woman of -- and they admit they distributed -- gave her the affidavit that asked her to -- asked her to say something she claims is utterly false.  Is...


HUME:  I mean, that seems -- that tells us something perhaps, maybe not about Chandra Levy's whereabouts but about Gary Condit.

BARNES:  Well, it does, and -- and it sounds like he's going to play a bigger PR game than he has in the past.  I mean, he hasn't agreed to any interviews.  He's hired a new public relation's person, Marina Ein, who...

HUME:  Marina Ein.

BARNES:  ... as Mort and I know very well -- she was a -- a -- did PR for The New Republic, has done it for a lot of things.  Brit, you'll find this amazing, but -- that she is such a talented PR person that she once got me on a best-dressed list.  So...

HUME:  She's not a PR person.  She's a -- she's a magician.


BARNES:  And that's exactly what Gary Condit needs, but it -- it sounds like they're going to be available to answer a lot more questions or at -- if not answer them, respond one way or another.

BIRNBAUM:  Well, I wonder about that.  I -- usually, you hire PR people to do things that are impossible, like get Fred on a best-dressed list, or to avoid answering questions, which I think Gary Condit has done especially well and much to his political disadvantage.

This story, I think, has moved from a criminal -- possible criminal inquiry -- it's not actually -- there's no crime, of course, that -- that we've talked about it, but it has moved into the political realm, and Gary Condit's political future is very much up in the air right now because he has not been forthcoming.

If he puts another veil between the press asking questions and himself, I believe that that's -- that's another problem.

HUME:  Let me put it -- let me put it to you another way.  We have gone and dug out the fact that he had this other relationship with this woman, whom he asked to remain quiet and, indeed, even to deny it, at least he asked through his lawyers, suggested she say something she claims is false.


HUME:  He was not forthcoming about that relationship.  Would it have been any better if he were?  Mort?

KONDRACKE:  I don't think so.  I mean, look, he -- the -- he is -- he is hiding behind a stone wall that he's -- he builds -- puts rocks further on top of, and he's determined to stay behind that stone wall for as long as he possibly can.

HUME:  Smart policy?

KONDRACKE:  Well, I guess so because he's -- what he seems to be afraid of is the questions, you know, and...

HUME:  And maybe the answers.

KONDRACKE:  Yeah.  You know, and how to handle the questions without -- without getting himself -- digging himself into a deeper hole.  I mean, look, he -- he almost clearly certainly has had multiple sexual affairs.  He's -- he does not want...

HUME:  Well, we don't know that.

KONDRACKE:  Well, I mean, you know, but -- but his -- his conduct suggests that he -- that all these allegations are -- that there's foundation to them, and he -- he doesn't like the way it reflects back in Modesto, which is, you know, a conservative area, and it -- and it's
hurting him.

BARNES:  Yeah.  The problem is -- and this is where I disagree with Jeff as well -- if he is responding to reporters, I can't think of a single question that reporters might ask that he wants to answer.  Not one.

HUME:  Oh, can you think of any that would be useful to him to answer?

BARNES:  I can't think a single -- of a single answer he could give, if truthful, that would be helpful.

BIRNBAUM:  I -- I don't know about that.  I think that he is in...

BARNES:  He can't tell the truth.

BIRNBAUM:  He's in the soup here, basically, politically speaking.  I don't know that there's any criminal culpability.  None of us know that, of course.  But if you ask crisis managers of any kind, the answer is to speak early and to be -- speak truthfully and try to get it all out, and he has done all of that completely backwards, and I think that his political career will suffer because of it...

BARNES:  Yeah, that...

BIRNBAUM:  ... and the -- and the irony or -- I don't know if it's irony, but the tragedy perhaps for people who support him is that he probably -- he may -- may very well have nothing to do with the disappearance of Chandra Levy.

KONDRACKE:  That's what he says.  I mean, you know, I would guess that he probably has nothing to do with the disappearance of Chandra Levy.  It's all the other stuff that he's hiding.  I mean it's -- you know, it's sort of like, you know, why did -- why did they break into Watergate? Why didn't they fess up about Watergate right away?  Well, because they had all this other stuff that they wanted to...

BIRNBAUM:  So the cover-up is worse than the crime.

HUME:  All right.  All right.  Enough on that.  Big war coming up over spending.  Vetoes.  All sorts of stuff.  Talk about that in a moment.

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