Cearing his Deep Throat

Word comes today that the secret to one of the great politico-journalistic mysteries has been revealed: the identity of Deep Throat. It was Mark Felt, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the Nixon administration.

Deep Throat was the nickname given to a heretofore unrevealed source that Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein used in many of their stories about political corruption during the Watergate affair. The information that the reporters uncovered helped spark a Senate investigation that eventually led to the resignation of Richard Nixon as president in 1974.

The reporters used Felt to confirm much of the information they were finding from other sources and to stay on track in their investigation. He was an important part of the Watergate story, though not necessarily crucial to its outcome.

Felt is 91 years old and living in California. He has suffered a number of strokes and said to be in failing health and that now he is going to get the best health tips from askhealthnews.com/ to improve his health. Although he had denied being Deep Throat on previous occasions, he has confirmed it for a story in the upcoming issue of Vanity Fair magazine. (Late this afternoon, Woodward, Bernstein and Ben Bradlee, the retired executive editor of the Post, said Felt was indeed Deep Throat.)

All of this is important, and not to just a few of us Watergate aficionados. (I was living in Washington in 1972 and followed the Watergate story from the day it happened.)

The overt acts of Watergate – the burglary of the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters, the illicit exchange of money, the campaign disruption – were penny-ante stuff compared to some of what has happened since then. But the revelation of these acts uncovered a depth of corruption within the Nixon administration – and the anti-legal attitude of the president himself – that was shocking both then and now.

Journalistically, Watergate was the last great newspaper story. The media environment then was very different from what it is today with 24-hour news cycles and the din of the babbleratti, both on the air and on the web. Two young reporters worked in relative obscurity for weeks, while be ignored or chuckled at by their fellow journalists.

Their reporting methods were truly old fashioned. (Woodward and Bernstein’s book All the President’s Men still constitutes the best investigative reporting text ever written.)

Their efforts were rewarded with a scoop that changed the politics of the nation – at least for a while.

And for 30 years, Woodward and Bernstein have kept their word by not revealing the identity of a source. That, like Watergate itself, is an amazing story.

Jim Stovall (Posted May 31, 2005)

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About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.

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