Thirty-two years ago this month Sen. Ted Kennedy drove off a bridge on Martha’s Vineyard, and his traveling companion, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned in the Chappaquiddick pond.

What the heck they were doing out in a desolate area late at night has never been explained; that is if you don’t buy the senator’s explanation that they took a wrong turn. And it took Kennedy hours to report the incident even though a prompt call might have saved Ms. Kopechne had there been an air pocket in the car.

At the time, the big three TV network news broadcasts covered the story but not particularly aggressively. Kennedy’s lawyers spun; the TV reporters recorded their words. The Vineyard police said it was clearly a tragic accident in which no one was culpable; the TV guys wrote it all down.

In the end, Kennedy skated. He was embarrassed and his presidential ambitions were crippled, but a few years later it was all water under the bridge.

Now we have the Gary Condit-Chandra Levy story, which contains similarities to Chappaquiddick. Once again a member of Congress is in the spotlight, and a young woman could very possibly be dead. And once again the establishment media is having trouble with the situation.

I was amazed to learn that, as of this writing, “The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather” had not even covered the story, according to Associated Press television writer David Bauder. In the more than two months since Chandra Levy disappeared, ABC’s “The World News Tonight with Peter Jennings” has covered the story only twice.

Of course, the cable news networks have done hundreds of reports, so many that at times it is painful to watch. My program “The O’Reilly Factor” has been leading the charge.

Apparently the powers that be at CBS News and ABC News see the Condit-Levy story as much ado about sex. And sex is not welcome on the national evening news. If those entities were parents, the human race would die out.

But of course the Condit-Levy matter is much more than sex. The story is about a congressman lying to the police about a very serious matter and bringing immense pain to the family of a missing young woman. If the evening news people don’t get that, what can I tell you?

Ted Kennedy is lucky there were no cable news networks back in 1969. If there were, he and the inept Martha’s Vineyard cops would have been under tremendous pressure. Just like Gary Condit is today.

Do you think Condit would have finally admitted his affair with Ms. Levy if the media hadn’t pounded him for two months? Do you think the bungling D.C. cops would have begun actually investigating the situation if the cable press hadn’t brutally criticized the department? If you answered yes to those questions please send your resume to the network news people.

The Condit-Levy story is tawdry no question about it. But that is no reason to ignore it. A powerful congressman misleading authorities who are trying to find a missing girl is no small matter. And what about those authorities? They’re terrific aren’t they? It took the New York Post to uncover a key piece of evidence – that Ms. Levy made a flurry of cell phone calls to Condit just before she disappeared. Perhaps the D.C. police should turn the investigation over to the Post.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of bad police work. O.J. Simpson, Jon Benet Ramsey, Robert Blake and now Chandra Levy. How about some case cracking – OK people? There are too many homicides going unsolved these days. If the cops can’t figure out who killed a 4-year-old girl in her own home, what can they figure out?

Say what you want about media overkill on the cable news outlets, and the pun is not intended. But without us, high-profile crime stories would be even harder to solve. Something bad happened to Chandra Levy. Something bad happened to Mary Jo Kopechne. And you’ll never find out what happened or why if you are locked in on the network evening news.

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