Denials Amid a Cloud of Scandal

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By Sari Horwitz, Scott Higham and Sylvia Moreno
Sunday, July 20, 2008

By the first week of July 2001, D.C. detectives investigating the May 1 disappearance of Chandra Levy still had no idea that a man had been attacking young female joggers at knifepoint in Rock Creek Park. Rep. Gary Condit remained the center of police attention. The week would begin badly for him and rapidly get worse.

On July 2, Anne Marie Smith, the United Airlines flight attendant who told police she had an affair with Condit, went public on Fox News with a sensational story. She said that a Condit representative had tried to get her to sign an affidavit denying the relationship.

Smith's story had first appeared in Star magazine, a racy supermarket tabloid that paid Smith's roommate $2,500 for the tip.

Smith said she soon received a call from the Condit representative. He said he had an affidavit that he wanted her to sign. It read: "I do not and have not had a relationship with Congressman Condit other than being acquainted with him. I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the foregoing is true and correct."

Smith was scared, and she called a family friend who practiced law in Seattle. The lawyer told the Condit representative that Smith would not sign the affidavit because it wasn't true.

Condit said in a recent interview with The Washington Post that he had no relationship with Smith and had nothing to do with the affidavit. He called Smith's account "a paid story." Smith denied that she was paid for the story.

* * *

With the bad news hanging over him, Condit skipped the annual Fourth of July parade in Modesto, Calif., which for nearly 20 years had been a personal celebration of sorts for the congressman. Customarily, he rode in a convertible driven by one of his aides down a street that hometown hero George Lucas made famous in "American Graffiti." Michael Lynch, the congressman's chief of staff in Modesto, said Condit was sorry he couldn't make it. "Another circumstance arose that he had to attend to," Lynch told reporters.

Amid the crowd were people holding placards with pictures of Chandra. Others stood in silence, bearing yellow ribbons. Some were vocal. "We want answers from Congressman Condit!" one called out.

The next day, there was another explosive development: Linda Zamsky, Chandra's 40-year-old aunt and confidante who lived near the Elk River in Chesapeake City, Md., went before the cameras. The fast-talking, curly-haired native of Philadelphia said she was tired of hearing congressional aides deny that Condit had an affair with her niece.

Zamsky said Chandra had confided in her during numerous conversations and long walks when the intern visited for Thanksgiving in 2000 and Passover a few months later. Chandra told her that Condit kept cactus in his apartment, that his favorite ice cream was Ben & Jerry's chocolate chip cookie dough. She said the congressman gave her Godiva chocolates and a gold bracelet, which she showed to her aunt.

Zamsky said her niece told her that they had a five-year plan: Condit would leave his wife and start a family with Chandra. But until then, she had to avoid being seen when she was in Condit's building.


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© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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