It used to be a title of prestige, but the recent four-month scandal involving Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif.) and missing Chandra Levy has dropped “Washington intern” another rung on the ladder of credibility.
Levy, 24, from Modesto, Calif., was last seen April 30 after her internship at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons ended. Her disappearance has all but taken over the 24-hour news channels because of her alleged relationship with Condit, and reduced the word intern to just another late-night television joke.
Local interns said they do not solely blame Condit for stripping the honor of their distinguished position. They attribute much of the blame to the media’s coverage of the story.
“The Chandra and Monica (Lewinsky) image of most interns is just wrong,” said senior Kendra Crowley, who interns at a lobbying firm. “Now, because of the media’s emphasis on this story, the attitude towards us has changed. The press has made us seem to our family, friends and colleagues like a total joke.”
The media world has a different take on their role in this story.
“We’ve kept this story on the front burner a lot longer than a story about a missing girl would have been, and the fact that a congressman was involved made it a national story,” “The Early Show’s” Washington Senior Producer Arlene Dillon said. “The story touched a nerve in America.”
Crowley said the allure to the Washington political scene is not sex, but education and opportunity. In fact, the salacious image of D.C. interns is most often quite the opposite.
Interns come to D.C. taking positions with little or no pay in which they spend much of the day performing office support, Dillon said. A day in the life of a D.C. intern includes the very unsexy tasks of opening mail and answering the phones along with other clerical duties.
“It’s the environment and the people that you are exposed to that makes the job worthwhile,” Crowley said.
The disappearance of Levy in April highlights the dangers of living in a big city and heightens parents’ fears.
“I was a little leery of Kendra living in Washington,” her mother, Ann Crowley, said. “The dangers in the city alone are enough to make a parent worry. But with all these young girls getting into trouble with these older men, it really makes a mother nervous.
“The important thing though is I respect and trust my daughter’s judgement,” she added.
Even with parents worrying, and daughters being warned to be cautious around congressmen, some think interns should not be deterred from the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I think we need to encourage young people to be here,” said former Olympic athlete and current Capitol Hill intern Kerri Strug, according to an Aug. 27 Time magazine article. “Girls just have to be careful. There are risks in every city, every job.”
“What people have to remember is that relationships and affairs happen in every profession,” Crowley said. “But, not every profession has the attention that politics does; so, the media makes it seem like it’s happening more often in government than it is in any other job.”