Sunday marks the 40-year anniversary of Watergate.
What started out as a ``third rate burglary’’ at 2: 30 a.m. on June 17, 1972 at the Watergate complex in Washington D.C., quickly ballooned into a federal investigation, leading to 41 individuals linked to the White House being indicted, another 21 individuals would serve prison time, culminating in the 37th President of the United States (facing almost certain impeachment), resigning in disgrace to become the first president in U.S. history forced from office. Not your everyday fender bender.
So, to remember the occasion of one of the most explosive political scandals of the 20th century being uncovered only through the hard work and dogged dedication of two young aggressive reporters at The Washington Post, I’ve compiled what I hope to be are some interesting facts and footnotes about Watergate scandal.
• ``Watergate" is an "exclusive" apartment building complex (including shopping and offices) in Washington, D.C. On the sixth floor were the offices of the Democratic National Committee. On June 17, 1972, in response to a call by a security guard, police were alerted and found five men spying inside the Democratic Committee's offices. A total of seven men were arrested and indicted in September by a Federal grand jury and charged with illegally entering the offices with intent to tap conversations and steal documents.: Those discovered in the offices, included: James McCord, Jr., Bernard L. Barker, Frank Sturgis, Eugenio R. Martinez, Virgillio R. Gonzales; E. Howard Hunt Jr. and G. Gordon Liddy. Of the seven, Hunt and McCord were charged with intercepting conversations.
A Footnote: The $80 a week security guard, Frank Wills, who alerted police to the burglaries, died on September 27, 2000 at the age of 52 from a brain tumor. [See Obituary]
• Alfred E. Lewis, staff writer for The Washington Post, first reported on the break-in at the Democratic National headquarters on June 18, 1972:
Published contributions of this first story, included Washington Post Staff Writers Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Bart Barnes, Kirk Scharfenberg, Martin Weil, Claudia Lery, Abbott Combes, and Tim O'Brien.
In The New York Times on June 18, 1972, the break-in story appeared on page 30.
• On June 19, 1972: Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein publish their first article on the Watergate affair, in which they name former CIA employee James W. McCord as being a salaried security coordinator for President Nixon’s reelection committee.
• Executing an article search for ``Richard Nixon'' on NexisDirect from LexisNexis from June 1, 1972 through 2012, shows that there were a total of 483,088 search results: 31,379 from 1972-1980, 184,305 from 1980 through 1999 and 267,404 from 2000 through 2012.
• Searching for articles on ``Watergate'' on LexisNexis from June 1, 1972 through 2012, shows there were a total of 127, 506 results with 7,959 results from 1972 through 1980, 60,958 from 1980 through 1999, and 58,589 results from 2000 through 2012.
• Searching on WorldCat which contains more than 271 million items and represents the collections of 72,000 libraries worldwide, shows that on June 10, 2012, there were 7,965 records for ``Richard Nixon''; 4,206 records for ``Watergate'', 3,590 records for the ``Watergate Affair; while searching for ``Nixon’’ and ``Watergate Affair’’ as a subject, returns 1,396 records.
• According to Bowker's Books in Print Database, as of May 30, 2012, there have been a total of 266 books published about the ``Watergate Affair'', 87 of those books were written in the 1970's, 36 in the 1980's, 60 in the 1990's, 69 from 2000 through 2009, and 14 from 2010 through 2012.
• Even with many U.S. newspapers well staffed, including beefed up bureaus in Washington, the Watergate break-in remained largely a Washington Post story. Former editor of national news at The Washington Post Ben Bagdikian once estimated that of the ``sixteen bureaus with ten or more correspondents based in Washington, employing a total of 433 reporters, fewer than fifteen were assigned full time to Watergate before the Senate Select Committee began hearings in May 1973.’’
• In November, 1972, President Nixon won reelection with a commanding 61 percent of the vote, carrying 49 states.
• Despite the public outrage over Watergate, through most of 1973, the sluggish economy dominated the polls, and in 1974 the energy crisis was the biggest concern to American voters. Even after the public confidence in Nixon plummeted during the Senate televised hearings in the summer of 1973, 43 percent of the poll respondents in June 1974 considered Watergate to be "just politics," compared with 48 percent who considered it to be a serious matter.
• Richard Nixon's overall job rating in a Harris Survey fell from 59 percent in March of 1973 to 29 percent in July of 1974.
• A Gallup telephone poll immediately after Nixon's speech showed 79 percent of a national sample believing Nixon did the "best thing" by resigning and just 13 percent thought he should have "stayed.
• On May 31, 2005, (acutally published in July, 2005 of the magazine) America' best kept secret came to a screeching halt when Vanity Fair revealed the identity of ``Deep Throat’’, Woodward and Bernstein’s critical anonymous source in the Watergate investigation. Their coveted source was W. Mark Felt, the associate director of the FBI under President Nixon.
Felt died on September 18, 2008 at age 95.
• The Watergate scandal coined or popularized a number of words and phrases, among them: Saturday night massacre, stonewalling, cover up, dirty tricks, straight arrow, expletive deleted, third-rate burglary, plumbers, Deep Throat, and the Big Enchilda.
• By far, the most popular term associated with Watergate was ``smoking gun’’ a code word for clear evidence of Richard Nixon’s involvement in the cover-up and grounds for impeachment. One of the first references to ``smoking gun’’ is found in The New York Times on July 14, 1974, when Roger Wilkins wrote in his lead paragraph: ``The big question asked over the last few weeks in and around the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing room by committee members who were uncertain about how they felt about impeachment was, ``Where's the smoking gun''?
• William Safire, writing in a January 26, 2003 New York Times article, found two early references to the phrase ``smoking gun.'' On July 31, 1974, Representative Jack Brooks told the impeachment panel that he thought Nixon was guilty of income-tax invasion. Millions of Americans will view this evidence as a so-called ``smoking gun’’ the Texan said. Then on August 5, 1974, the committee released a transcript of a recording of a meeting on June 23, 1972, capturing White House chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, asking President Nixon, ``You think the thing to do is to get them, the FBI to stop? Nixon replied, ``Right, fine.'' Representative Barbara Conable of New York, almost without delay said that it ``looked like a smoking gun'' and the recording quickly became known as the ``smoking-gun tape.''
• The word ``plumbers'' a Watergate euphemism for someone who plugs leaks was coined by David Young, who was a Special Assistant at the National Security Council in the Nixon Administration and an Administrative Assistant to Henry Kissinger. According to transcripts from a television interview, Young stumbled upon the ``plumbers’’ while talking with his mother-in-law, who asked him "What are you working on, dear?" Young replied: "Well, I am plugging leaks." She said "Oh how nice, we had carpenter in the family, now we have a plumber." Young liked the word plumbers so much that he had the word placed on the inside of the door of their office room (no. 16) in the White House. Later, when questioned under oath, Young admitted we called ourselves the ``plumbers.''
• Contrary to popular belief, Bob Woodward's anonymous source, ``Deep Throat’’ never said ``Follow the Money.'' One of the most famous lines in American cinema was actually coined by ``All the President’s Men’’ screenplay writer, William Goldman. Woodward himself never separated fact from fiction until he was questioned about the quote years ago. So sure the line was indeed uttered by Deep Throat that he rifled through his notes and to his complete amazement-he realized ``Follow the money’’ was nothing more than a Hollywood creation.
• In the Congressional elections after Richard Nixon’s resignation, the Republicans felt the sting of the voter backlash: The Senate lost five, dropping them to only 37 seats to the Democrats 60. The most crushing loss came in the House, where the GOP lost 48 seats, giving the Democrats a strong majority with 291 seats to the Republicans' 144.
• 75 new Democratic members of the House came to Washington in 1975, many of them still in their early 40’s, giving rise to a new label for this new class of idealistic public servants determined to change the culture of Washington. They were dubbed the ``Watergate Babies'' by the press. Of those 75 ``Watergate Babies’’, five of them are still in the U.S. Congress 40 years later: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont): Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) (first elected to the House in 1974) ; Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) (first elected in the House in 1974); Rep. George Miller (D-California); and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California).
• In his original review of the motion picture ``All the President's Men'' for The Chicago Sun-Times published on January 1, 1976 , film critic Roger Ebert wrote: ``For all of its technical skill, the movie essentially shows us the same journalistic process several times as it leads closer and closer to an end we already know. The film is long, and would be dull if it weren't for the wizardry of Pakula, his actors, and technicians.'' Vincent Canby, meanwhile, in his April 8, 1976 review in The New York Times, wrote of the film: ``The manners and methods of big-city newspapering, beautifully detailed, contribute as much to the momentum of the film as the mystery that's being uncovered. Maybe even more, since the real excitement of "All The President's Men" is in watching two comparatively inexperienced reporters stumble onto the story of their lives and develop it triumphantly, against all odds.’’
• There is a perception that the heroic reporting by Woodward and Bernstein during Watergate led to a sharp spike in enrollment in journalism schools throughout the country. Unfortunately, no such hard data supports this assumption. Writing in ``Pulitzer School’’ (Columbia University Press, 2003) James Boylan writes: ``A legend that has persisted for thirty years insists that journalism school applications spiked upward after the Watergate exposures. No such thing: the rise had begun six years before--Columbia had its first big surge from 1963 to 1965--for reasons still not well explained, and continued through the 1980s, at Columbia and elsewhere."
• Though Woodward and Bernstein might not been the direct cause of young people selecting journalism as their chosen career field, their remarkable Watergate reporting clearly helped set a new standard in American journalism. Historian James AuCoin, for example, writing in ``Journalism History’’ (1995), wrote: ``Buried by generations of conservative newspaper publishers and complacent reporters, investigative reporting would not experience a revival until the end of the 1960's, beginning with skeptical reporting on the war in Vietnam and culminating just a few years later in the Watergate disclosures of Woodward and Bernstein, which suddenly gave new muckrakers the status of celebrities.''
• A Footnote: Lincoln Steffens, a New York reporter, who specialized in investigating government and political corruption at the dawn of the 20th century, first talked about ``journalistic investigations'' in 1906; and according to Editor & Publisher in a December 8, 1952 article: ``Newspapers must turn more and more to great reporters. They will be known as investigative reporters.’’ ….. `` Investigative reporting has as its goal the stimulation of sufficient indignation to force a new code of ethics on the public officeholder.''
• A graph plotted by Google on their ``Ngram Viewer’ shows how interest in investigative reporting rose, beginning in the late 1960’s. Plotting out the evolution of ``government mistrust’’ shows a similar increase of interest during the same time period.
June 13, 2012
Memorable Watergate Quotes:
• ``A third-rate burglary attempt''
-Ronald L. Ziegler, press conference, Key Biscayne, Florida, June 19, 1972, characterizing the break-in of the Democratic National Headquarters two days earlier.
• ``Katie Graham's gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer if that's published''
-John N. Mitchell, telephone interview, September 29, 1972 as quoted in ``All the President's Men'' (1974) by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. Bernstein was checking a lead accusing Mitchell of controlling a secret fund that financed the Watergate break-in and other political espionage operations.
• `The essential question is simply put: What did the president know and when did he know it?''
-Howard H. Baker, Jr. Senate Watergate Committee hearings, June 25, 1973
• ``I'm not a crook''
-Richard Nixon, press conference, Disney World, November 11, 1973
• ``I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body.''
-Richard Nixon announcing his resignation as president, August 8, 1974
• ``Our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works''
-Gerald Ford, inaugural statement upon succeeding Richard M. Nixon as president, August 9, 1974
• ``I screwed up terribly in what was a little thing and it became a big thing’’......``I brought myself down. I gave them a sword. And they stuck it in, and they twisted it with relish. And I guess if I had been in their position, I'd have done the same thing.''
-Richard M. Nixon, television interview with David Frost, May 4, 1977
Source: The Oxford Dictionary of American Quotations
Key Dates of the Watergate Affair
June 17, 1972: James McCord and four others are arrested by Washington police inside the Democrats' Watergate headquarters. Police confiscate cameras, eavesdropping equipment, and $2,300 in cash with serial numbers in sequence.
September 15, 1972: G. Gordon Liddy, Howard Hunt and five others caught inside the Watergate on June 17th are indicted by a federal grand jury.
October 10, 1972: The Washington Post reports that the FBI have established that the bugging of the Democratic headquarters originated from a ``massive campaign of political spying and sabotage’’, which was directed by officials of the White House and the Committee for the Re-election of the President.
October 25, 1972: Based on information from federal investigators, The Washington Post reveals that H.R. Haldeman was one of five high-ranking presidential assistants authorized to make payments from a secret Nixon campaign cash fund used to finance a spying and sabotage campaign against Democratic presidential candidates.
February 7, 1973: The start of the Watergate investigation officially kicks off when the Senate votes unanimously to create the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities under the leadership of Senator Sam Ervin Jr.
April 30, 1973: John Erlichman, Haldeman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst resign. Nixon fires John Dean.
May 17, 1973: Televised Watergate hearings begin.
October 13, 1973: The House Judiciary Committee considers procedures for impeachment.
November 14, 1973: The White House learns there is an 18 1/2 minute gap in the June 20, 1972 tape of a meeting between Haldeman and Nixon.
January 15, 1974: Technical experts determine that the 18 1/2-minute gap in the June 20th tape was erased manually.
February 6, 1974: The House votes 410 to 4 to proceed with impeachment, including giving the House Judiciary Committee broad subpoena powers.
March 1, 1974: Seven key members of the Nixon administration, including John Mitchell, Haldeman, Erlichman and Chuck Colson are indicted by a grand jury on charges of conspiring to cover up the Watergate burglary. Nixon is named as an ``unindicted coconspirator''
April 30, 1974: The White House releases 1,239 pages of edited transcripts involving White House discussion on Watergate and other White House business.
May 9, 1974: The House Judiciary Committee begins formal hearings on the possible impeachment of Richard Nixon.
July 24, 1974: In the United States vs. Nixon, the U.S. Supreme Court in a unanimous decision ruled executive power was something to be determined by the courts, not the president. Nixon, the court ruled, will be required to turn over the tapes
July 24, 1974: The House Judiciary Committee begins debate on articles of impeachment against Nixon.
July 27, 1974: The House Judiciary Committee on a 27-11 vote, recommends Nixon be impeached on grounds that he obstructed the investigation of the Watergate break-in and was equally complicit in the cover-up. Other articles of impeachment are voted on again on July 29 and July 30th.
August 5, 1974: Three new transcripts are released by the White House; the most damaging is the one from June 23, 1972 between Haldeman and Nixon which reveals Nixon personally ordered the cover-up within six days after the break-in of the Democrat's national headquarters.
August 7, 1974: Nixon meets with Senate Minority Leader High Scott, House Minority Leader John Rhodes and Senator Barry Goldwater who inform him the cards are clearly stacked against him: specifically, that he only has about 15 votes against impeachment in the Senate and approximately 10 votes against impeachment in the House.
August 8, 1974: Nixon announces his resignation on nationwide television, which became effective at noon, the next day, August 9th.
September 8, 1974: President Gerald Ford grants Nixon ``full, free, and absolute pardon'' for any crimes he may have committed as president.
Source: ``The Watergate Crisis’’ By Michael Genoves (Guides to Historic Events of the Twentieth Century [Greenwood Press]; Washington Post Archives.
All the President’s Men 40 Years Later: A Biographical Update:
• Harry Robbins Haldeman or H.R. "Bob" Haldeman; Richard M. Nixon's White House chief of staff was convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, serving 18 months at the Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) located 60 miles northwest of Santa Barbara. After being released from prison (on parole) on December 20, 1978, Nixon’s right hand man became vice president of the David H. Murdoch real estate development company. He died of cancer, age 67, at his home in Santa Barbara, California on November 12, 1993. [See Obituary ]
• John Daniel Ehrlichman was counsel and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs under President Richard Nixon. Convicted on January 1, 1975 of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury in the Watergate affair, he served a total of 18 months from the Federal prison camp at Stafford, Arizona. After prison, he tried his hand at writing while living in Santa Fe., N.M., later serving as senior vice president of Law Environmental, an engineering company in Atlanta with a concentration on hazardous-waste handling.
He died on February 14, 1999 at his home in Atlanta while suffering from diabetes. He was 73. [See Obituary]
• John Newton Mitchell, Attorney General of the United States from 1969 to 1972 under President Richard Nixon, was found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury for his role in the Watergate break-in and cover-up, serving 19 months at the Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, a minimum security prison.
Upon his release from prison on February 21, 1975 for medical reasons, the former attorney general told reporters gathered around him: ``From henceforth, don't call me. I'll call you."
According to his obituary, after being released from prison, he lived an obscure life in his Georgetown home, working occasionally as a consultant. On November 9, 1988, Mitchell collapsed from a heart attack on the sidewalk in front of 2812 N St., N.W., Georgetown, Washington, D.C. He was 75.
• Jeb Stuart Magruder served in the White House until the spring of 1971, later managing the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP) as Deputy Director, and assistant to CRP Director and Attorney General of the United States John N. Mitchell.
On May 21, 1974, Magruder began serving seven months in a Federal prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania for his role in the botched burglary of Watergate and the following cover-up.
After prison, he earned a Master of Divinity from the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1981, and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. He served as associate minister at the First Presbyterian Church in Burlingame, California and First Community Church of Columbus, Ohio. In 1990, Magruder became senior pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Lexington, Kentucky.
• Maurice Stans, who served as the finance chairman for the Committee to Re-elect the President, working for the re-election of Richard Nixon, was indicted on 10 counts of perjury and conspiracy in connection with a $200,000 contribution from fugitive financier Robert Vesco. He was acquitted in 1974.
Soon after the Watergate trials, he wrote a book, “The Terrors of Justice.”, and later another book followed: “One of the President’s Men.”
Stans died on April 14, 1998, age 90, after suffering a heart attack at the Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, California.[See Obituary]
• Charles "Chuck" Wendell Colson, a Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973, who compiled the infamous “enemies list” of individuals considered threats to the White House while orchestrating schemes to discredit Daniel Ellsberg, (the former United States Pentagon analyst suspected of leaking a top-secret history of the Vietnam War to the New York Times and The Washington Post), was released from prison (on parole) in January 1975, after serving seven months in Maxwell Correctional Facility in Alabama for conspiring to cover up the Watergate burglary.
After prison, Nixon’s professed ``hatchet man’’ became an Evangelical Christian leader and cultural commentator and strong advocate for prison reform. Colson founded the Prison Fellowship in 1976; and in 1983, he pushed for bipartisan, legislative reforms in the U.S. criminal justice system.
On April 21, 2012, Colson died from a brain hemorrhage.’’ He was 80. [See Obituary}
• John Wesley Dean III who served as White House Counsel to United States President Richard Nixon from July 1970 until April 1973, spent four months in prison for his role in the Watergate cover-up on charges of obstruction of justice.
Dean, now a fierce critic of the Republican Party (who advocated the impeachment of George W. Bush), lives in Beverly Hills, Calif. with his wife, Maureen and is currently an author, columnist, and commentator on U.S. politics. He’s also an investment banker.
• James Walter McCord, Jr. a former CIA agent, later an electronics expert in the Watergate burglaries was charged with eight counts of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping. He was sentenced to four months in jail.
In 1974, he published a book entitled, "A Piece of Tape -- The Watergate Story: Fact and Fiction."
McCord currently resides in Rockville, Md.
• Egil Krogh, head of the "Special Investigation Unit" in the White House, formed a secret operation charged with fixing leaks, an organization that came to be known as the ``plumbers’’ and was the one who approved the September 1971 burglary of the office of Lewis Fielding, the psychiatrist treating Daniel Ellsberg. G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt carried out the actual break-in.
On November 30, 1973, Krogh pled guilty to federal charges of conspiring to violate Fielding's civil rights and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. He was sentenced to two to six years in prison, but was released after 4 ½ months.
After being readmitted to practice law, he became a partner at Krogh & Leonard in Seattle and currently provides legal, consulting, and mediation services to energy and other clients.
In 2007, Krogh wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times, describing ``the meltdown of personal integrity’’ which had poisoned the Nixon White House.
Krogh’s brother-in-law, Peter Horton, is the director and executive producer of the ABC television series Grey's Anatomy.
• George Gordon Battle Liddy, better known as G. Gordon Liddy, was the chief operative for the White House Plumbers unit during Richard Nixon's presidency.
Along with E. Howard Hunt, Liddy carried out the Watergate burglaries of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate building in May and June 1972.
On January 30, 1973, Liddy began serving a 20-year prison sentence for his role in the Watergate break-in, for conspiracy in the Daniel Ellsberg case and for contempt of court,, but on April 12, 1977, President Jimmy Carter commuted his sentence to eight years ``in the interest of fairness’’, so the president reasoned, based on the limited sentences of others convicted in the Watergate scandal. Liddy became eligible for parole on July 9, 1977 and was released on September 7, 1977 having served a total of four and a-half years of prison time.
Liddy is currently a radio talk show host and frequently a guest panelist for Fox News Channel.
• Everette Howard Hunt, Jr. was an American intelligence officer and writer. Hunt served for many years as a CIA officer. In addition to Liddy and others, Hunt was one of the Nixon White House "plumbers" — a secret team of operatives charged with fixing "leaks". Hunt and Liddy engineered the first Watergate burglary, and other undercover operations for Nixon. For his complicity in the Watergate scandal, Hunt was convicted of burglary, conspiracy and wiretapping, and beginning on April 25, 1975, served 33 months in prison at the low-security Federal Prison Camp at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
After prison, Hunt moved to Miami, married a schoolteacher and started a second family. He died in South Florida of complications from pneumonia on January 23, 2007 [See Obituary]
• Donald Henry Segretti, a former political operative for the Committee to Re-elect the President (Nixon) during the early 1970s, ran a campaign of ``dirty tricks’’ against the Democrats, with his work being paid for by Herb Kalmbach, Nixon's lawyer, from presidential campaign re-election funds. Prior to April 7, 1972, there was no requirement that contributors to political campaigns had to be disclosed.
In 1974, Segretti pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of distributing illegal and forged campaign literature and was sentenced to six months in prison, but was released after serving four months.
In the 1976 film ``All the President's Men’’, Segretti was played by Robert Walden.
In 2000, he served as co-chair of John McCain's presidential campaign in Orange County, California.
Watergate Resources to Keep in Mind:
• Watergate Trial Conversations (Nixon Presidential Library & Museum)
• The Woodward and Bernstein Watergate Papers (Harry Ransom Center: The University of Texas at Austin)