Those of you of a certain age remember the name Chandra Levy. There was a time, back in the summer of 2001, when you couldn’t turn on the news without hearing it. Her story started out innocuous enough: A vivacious young college student comes to Washington for an internship, hoping to build the foundation for a career in politics, and impresses everyone with her hard work and ambition. But she also attracts the attention of someone else. He’s handsome and charismatic, and happens to be a member of the House of Representatives. He’s also married—but that doesn’t stop him from making his move.
He strikes up a relationship with her, which quickly turns into an affair. It’s not his first, and it’s not his only one, but to her it’s something special. She tells her family back home in California about the Congressman, who represents their district, but they keep her secret in confidence. She’s just a kid, after all, and they don’t want to put her in the middle of a scandal—which suits the Congressman just fine. It’s a familiar dance in DC, where the young and beautiful seek out the older and more powerful.
Then comes that day in May of that year, when she goes missing—and suddenly she’s a secret that the Congressman can no longer keep. The girl’s parents tell the media. The media hound the Congressman. What does he know about her disappearance? Was he involved in it somehow? Suddenly her picture is everywhere—and so is his. Meanwhile, the police are searching for her, but they have no clues. It’s a mystery, and nobody seems to have any answers.
Is it any wonder that Chandra Levy commanded so much attention?
It’s all anyone could talk about back then, along with Representative Gary Condit—a name largely unknown outside of his hometown of Modesto, until he became the face of predatory Washington. It was in this environment that John Conyers, who has now been exposed for his own alleged predatory practices, pursued another intern—a 20 year old woman named Courtney Morse, who recounted her story to the Washington Post.
Morse had worked in Conyers’ office for several months without any problems, until one evening when everything changed:
Morse told The Post she quit her internship after Conyers drove her home from work one night, wrapped his hand around hers as it rested in her lap, and told her he was interested in a sexual relationship. When she rejected his advances, Morse said he brought up the then-developing investigation into the disappearance of former federal intern Chandra Levy.“He said he had insider information on the case. I don’t know if he meant it to be threatening, but I took it that way,” Morse said in an interview. “I got out of the car and ran.”
I have no idea what could be going through a man’s mind when, after getting turned down for sex, he mentions a girl that has gone missing and is presumed dead—but I can venture a pretty good guess about what Morse was thinking. Is he suggesting that he had something to do with her disappearance? Or is he saying that he can do exactly the same thing to me if I don’t give him what he wants? Conyers was, after all, a powerful politician and Morse was just a lowly intern. A man like that could get away with anything.
Talk about terrifying. It’s no wonder Morse ran away.
And yet it still took another sixteen years for John Conyers to be forced out, even though his predilections were well known.
Conyers’ behavior was creepy, to be sure—but creepier still is the system that protected him.