When Chandra Levy, a 24-year-old intern at the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington D.C., went missing in 2001, the media frenzy that followed put then-California Congressman Gary Condit in the spotlight. Though he was never named a suspect, Condit admitted to having a personal relationship with Levy, which led the media and the public to question his involvement in what became a murder case when Levy’s remains were found in Rock Creek Park in 2002.
Though Condit says Levy and her family are the victims, not him, he lost his seat in the House of Representatives, and was criticized by the public.
Condit, co-author of “Actual Malice: A True Crime Political Thriller” (Ghost Mountain Publishing/Jay McGraw) with Breton Peace, speaks out for the first time in 15 years in an exclusive interview airing Thursday on Dr. Phil. He recalls, “As I would walk through the airport, people would walk up to me and ask, ‘Where did you hide the body?’ or yell across the room at me ‘Murderer!'”
WATCH: 15 Years After Chandra Levy’s Murder, Former Congressman Gary Condit Opens Up About His Personal Relationship With the D.C. Department of Prisons Intern
One of Condit’s attorneys, L. Lin Wood, explains how Condit went from being a respected leader to a target.
Dr. Phil asks, “Lin, we’ve been talking about one of the most egregious character assassinations that I’ve ever seen. How does that happen in current times?”
"I call it the unholy alliance between law enforcement and the media," says Wood. "And that is a real danger if it occurs during a slow news cycle. And people will watch this show and hopefully they will read this book but there will still be, unfortunately, a large number of people that will still believe that Gary Condit was somehow involved in what happened to Chandra Levy. The shout of guilty is never overcome by the whisper of innocence. They destroyed this man. It changed his life. It destroyed his reputation, deprived the public of a hell of a good congressman, gone in the blink of a three-month media frenzy fueled by incompetent law enforcement and leaks of false information."
Watch the video above as Dr. Phil looks at "some of the horrific lies" and "outrageous headlines" published about Condit.
"I remember watching it," says Lin about the 24/7 news coverage of Condit. "An image of a devious man who had something to hide, who was not telling the truth. You can't come back two years later in a lawsuit and ever undo that impression."WATCH: Gary Condit On Why He Believes Police Were Focused On Him
Dr. Phil concludes, "I hope people, if they think they know what happened here, they will see this broadcast, they will look at this book, and hear me say, 'Don't fall victim to confirmation bias. Guard against that and say, 'I need to hit the reset button on what I think I know and check the facts.' ... It ain't almost what you think you know."
Ingmar Guandique, a Salvadoran illegal immigrant, was convicted of and sentenced to 60 years in prison for Levy’s murder. While he was granted a new trial in June of 2015, the U.S. Attorney's Office has dropped the charges, saying "that it can no longer prove the murder case against Mr. Guandique beyond a reasonable doubt."
This episode of Dr. Phil
airs Thursday. Watch more here.