By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated August 27, 2001 12:58 PM

PEOPLE cover subject Gary Condit’s first TV interview after Chandra Levy’s disappearance might have failed to deliver answers about the California congressman’s relationship with the missing Washington intern, but it drew big numbers for ABC Thursday night. According to Nielsen Media Research, ABC News’s “Primetime Thursday,” which aired Connie Chung’s hard-won 30-minute live-to-tape interview, averaged 23.7 million viewers — the largest audience for any program since NBC’s “ER” season finale May 17. In the primetime newsmagazine category, ABC’s show drew the most viewers in 2 1/2 years, since Barbara Walters’s interview with Monica Lewinsky on March 3, 1999 (48.5 million). Among summer newsmagazines, Chung nabbed the highest viewership since Diane Sawyer’s Q&A with Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley on ABC on June 14, 1995 (37.5 million). In a postmortem with The New York Times about her interview with the California Congressman, Chung said the time constraint — 30 minutes — added to the air of tension. “Usually the first half-hour is largely when the interview warms up,” she said. Representatives for Condit told The Times that they were disappointed that the newswoman spent so much time focusing on the question of whether or not Condit had an affair with Levy (a question he repeatedly refused to answer). “We felt that Congressman Condit answered that question to the satisfaction of anyone who was watching — certainly obviating the need for Ms. Chung to ask that question as repeatedly as she did,” said Marina Ein, Condit’s spokeswoman.