Rep. Gary A. Condit (D-Ceres) abruptly canceled appearances in three Fourth of July parades in his Central Valley district Wednesday, a day after denying he discouraged an airline flight attendant from cooperating in the search for missing Modesto woman Chandra Levy.
Condit's chief of staff, Mike Lynch, said the congressman "was precluded from going to the events by other circumstances," but would not say what they were. They may "possibly" become clear in the next few days, he said.
In addition, Lynch said, Condit "was concerned about the media frenzy on the parade, and did not want to be a distraction at family events."
The married Condit, 53, has provided few details about his relationship with Levy, 25, who disappeared May 1 at the end of a seven-month internship at the federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C. During that time, Condit has acknowledged, she had become "a good friend" of his.
His problems were compounded this week after the flight attendant, Anne Marie Smith, 39, told Fox News that she had an affair with Condit and that he asked her, after Levy vanished, to sign an affidavit denying it. He told her that she didn't have to answer authorities' questions about Levy, Smith said.
On Tuesday, Condit issued a statement saying, "I have not asked anyone to refrain from discussing [Levy] with authorities, nor have I suggested anyone mislead the authorities."
The statement did not name Smith.
Condit's lawyers at the San Francisco firm of Joseph Cotchett confirmed that the firm had sent a proposed statement to Smith's lawyer, James Robinson of Seattle, that said she did not have a romantic relationship with Condit. Robinson returned it unsigned, he said, because it was incorrect.
Smith told Fox News that she had a yearlong affair with Condit after meeting him on a flight from San Francisco to Washington, but he broke it off after Levy disappeared.
She said the congressman contacted her last month and became upset when she mentioned that the FBI had called her in its inquiry into Levy's disappearance.
"He said that, 'You don't have to talk to the media,' " she told Fox News. " 'You don't have to talk to anybody. You don't even have to talk to the FBI.' "
Smith added that Condit urged her in that conversation to sign a declaration denying that the two had had a relationship.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that a former bodyguard and driver for Condit, Vince Flammini, confirmed that he had told the FBI that the congressman had had an affair with Smith, and that he had driven him to a meeting with her.
Condit has been questioned by Washington police about his ties to Levy, and FBI agents have sought, so far unsuccessfully, to question the congressman's wife, Carolyn, who lives most of the time in Ceres but was in Washington the day Levy was last seen. The congressman is not a suspect in Levy's disappearance, police have said.
Condit has declined to answer press questions about Levy.
On Tuesday, the Fresno Bee reported, Condit ducked reporters at a fund-raiser that he attended at the Harris Ranch on Interstate 5.
The newspaper quoted Fresno County Supervisor Bob Waterston, who was there, as saying the event drew "mainly a group that was supporting him in a positive way. Condit said very little about the situation except that he was thankful for the support."