Was Condit's Decision to Stay Mum on the Levy Investigation Wise?
Media speculation in the eight weeks following the disappearance of Washington intern Chandra Levy has focused on her possible affair with, and implications of foul play involving, Democratic Rep. Gary Condit, a 53-year-old married congressman representing Levy's hometown of Modesto, Calif.
JON SCOTT: Congressman Gary Condit has been very quiet about the Chandra Levy case. Is that a good strategy? Or could it hurt his career? That's our "Hot Button" topic this hour. Joining us now, Peter Mirijanian, pr/crisis communications expert. Peter, if you had to give the congressman and team a grade so far, how are they doing?
>> I'd say a C + at this point. As Viviaca said earlier, it's not an easy one to give a quick and easy answer to.
JON SCOTT: There aren't any, as you say, easy outs for them, are there?
>> No. It's not. It seems to me there are two issues here. The case of the missing intern and a question of the political … and the lines are blurred. He has to be seen as compassionate and cooperative to the family and as well as not just doing it but be seen as doing it.
JON SCOTT: Well, everybody is saying, look, if he had a relationship with this intern, maybe even a romantic relationship, that's one thing. And it may reflect badly on him but it doesn't mean he had anything to do with the disappearance. Wouldn't he be better off to tell that story if that story exists?
>> It's a good point. I don't think there's a causal relationship at least as far as we know right now. You know, as I said, there's two theories … Abbe Lowell, his attorney and Billy Martin are seasoned veterans of the Washington wars and the impeachment scandal and advising the clients appropriately, but coming forward is always a good strategy, and in other words he can do that, I think he will do that sooner than later.
JON SCOTT: Is there a politician you can think of that faced this kind of a crisis? Not exactly the details but this kind of a crisis and handled it well?
>> No. I mean, it's a very delicate situation. You have the family involved. There's questions as to whether or not they knew of the nature of the relationship. It is -- I can't think of one. I mean, there is a feeding frenzy in Washington and you're hitting the summer doldrums here and you know, this is a great news story and it's one that everyone's watching very closely. I must say though, I don't think it's his responsibility to feed the media on this. He has to come forward and be clear about his role in this, and how he's cooperating but, no, it's a tough call. I can't think of one, no.
JON SCOTT: In part because the congressman really hasn't said anything publicly about the relationship between him and the woman we see on his right in the photograph there, Chandra Levy.
>> Right, right.
JON SCOTT: There's been a lot of speculation. Now, a lot of the speculation centers around the fact she apparently was hammered with back to back set backs. Lost the internship because you can't apparently, under government rules, hold on to an internship past graduation. She had graduated and lost the internship. She also told friends apparently that she was breaking up with somebody and the speculation is that it was the congressman. Should he address that point specifically?
>> Well, again, I go back. I think it's a question of, you know question of the political viability … and coming in conflict, direct conflict with what his rights are and what he is doing to cooperate with the authorities on the fact that she is a missing person. And, insofar as he defines the relationship, you're right. I mean, he could put a lot of it behind him saying that, look, there was a relationship here I mean if there was .... You know, I think he has to at some point. The heat under the pot will continue to rise until releasing the pressure.
JON SCOTT: Ex-president Clinton tried something maybe novel for a politician getting on TV and wagged the finger and said, I did not have relations with that woman. When it turned out not to be the case, it blew up in his face and a memorable part of the whole Lewinsky saga for a lot of people so I guess the lesson here from the ex-president is tell the truth if you make a statement. Is that right?
>> That's exactly right. No one wants that wag the finger moment. No politician or authority in this country, someone in the position of the power wants that visual played again and again. If the congressman comes out and makes a very, very compassionate and direct appeal to the public on this, to respect his privacy and, you know, to describe how he has been cooperating fully, I think that he may get the benefit of the doubt, and be able to get this behind him but it's not going to away any time soon the way it is now.
JON SCOTT: All right. Peter, thanks for being with us this morning.
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