August 24, 2001 11:00 pm

Americans were served up a platter of drivel Thursday night in the guise of an interview on ABCs Primetime news show.

Its hard to understand why ABC would air Connie Chungs interview with Rep. Gary Condit, except for one thing: viewership was expected to be high after the network announced that Condit was about to break his silence on the disappearance of Washington intern Chandra Levy.

Instead of opening up about his purported affair with Levy, the California congressmans lips were sealed as he ducked questions during the hour-long show.

Chung repeatedly asked Condit if he had had an affair with Levy, the 24-year-old California resident who has been missing since April. While acknowledging a very close relationship with her, Condit repeatedly cited his 34-year marriage and the wishes of the Levy family and that of his family to keep details of his life private.

Certainly Condit must have realized that Chung would be asking him the tough questions during his first broadcast interview since Levy disappeared. Why would he agree to the interview unless he were willing to answer questions in a way that would help the public understand his involvement with Levy?

Condit repeatedly said he had answered all the questions asked him by police investigating the disappearance. If Condit had pursued a sexual relationship with Levy, what would be the harm of him admitting to this in general terms in public, apologizing for what had happened and sharing something about how he, his wife and children were working through this very troubling matter? Even Bill Clinton eventually became more forthright about his conduct with Monica Lewinsky.

As it stands, the public will continue to view Condit with suspicion. Many Americans, after watching the program, concluded that he must be hiding something. ABC would have been better off filling the Primetime show with some other topic once producers realized that Condit in his taped interview earlier in the day was unwilling to come clean.

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