It Feels Like Felt: Journalists Respond to ‘Deep Throat’ Revelations

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By: Greg Mitchell

As news about the identity of fabled Watergate source — he is W. Mark Felt, the former FBI official — spread today, journalists began to weigh in. Here is a selection, to be updated:

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David Halberstam, in the Los Angeles Times: “This is a perfect example of why, sometimes as a reporter, you would be willing to fly in the night – perhaps a little in the dark – with someone because you take them very, very seriously. Sure, anonymous sources can be abused. But every once in a while they are simply mandatory … for a democracy to work.”

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Monica Crowley of MSNBC, former aide to Richard M. Nixon: “The Deep Throat name did come up during our conversations and Nixon threw out a couple of names — but even he didn’t know for sure who Deep Throat was.

“Nixon had a couple of theories himself. But Mark Felt’s name did come up repeatedly while we were talking, but never in a serious context in terms of Felt being The Source. Nixon never referred to Deep Throat as that … he always referred to him as The Source.

“Nixon combed through a lot of documentation and went back in his own mind on who this could be. He dismissed the composite theory and always thought it was one person. … Nixon always had a hard time understanding The Source’s motivation — why someone would be this disloyal to the president and leak the story to the Washington Post reporters.

“Nixon knew Felt only vaguely.”

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Patrick Buchanan, former Nixon speechwriter, a longtime suspect as Deep Throat, now a syndicated columnist: “I always said that I was not Deep Throat …

“I always believed it was Felt, but kept that private because what he did was so dishonorable I didn’t want to tie him to that if it was not true. If it was honorable, why did he keep it hidden so long? I think the man is ashamed of it.”

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Ben Bradlee, editor of The Washington Post during the Watergate probe: “I’ve never met Felt. I wouldn’t know him if I fell on him.”

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David Gergen, former White House aide, columnist: “I don’t know if we know much about the motive [of Felt] right now. It might well have been a vendetta, but much more about motives has yet to come out.”

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Sally Quinn, writer and wife of Ben Bradlee, talking to The New York Times: “I mean, I always suspected it, but I never asked (Bradlee). First of all, I didn’t want to be rejected, and I knew he wouldn’t tell me. And I knew that if somebody else blabbed, I would get blamed.

“There’s been a certain mystique about the story that will not be there anymore. Everybody loves a secret that can be kept. Deep Throat has become this living legend, like Camelot. And now it isn’t anymore.”

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Leonard Downie, current editor of The Washington Post, said Woodward “did the honorable thing by sticking by his confidentiality agreement. … He had agreed not to reveal his identity until [Deep Throat] released him from his pledge or the source died, and he did that. … Felt’s family and lawyer made their decision for him, and we had no choice … Bob was really kind of helpless.”

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Jon Friedman of Marketwatch: “The two most celebrated investigative reporters since Gutenberg just got scooped on their own source! And their journalistic mystique, as the keepers of the ‘Most Famous Secret’ of modern times, has been dramatically devalued. …

“And while we’re at it, I can’t imagine that the executives of the Washington Post Co. are too thrilled, either. The media behemoth owns the Washington Post, Newsweek and Slate, and yet it was [apparently] scooped by Vanity Fair magazine, of all outlets — on a story that the Washington Post ‘owned.’ The Post has been identified as the Watergate newspaper, enabling it to supersede the all-powerful New York Times on one story, at least.

“Not only has the greatest media mystery of the modern times, and maybe in history, apparently been solved. But a business opportunity has been squandered, too.”

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Harry Smith, at cbsnews.com: “As for Deep Throat being an FBI guy — Nixon’s response would not have been printable.”

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Adrian Havill, author of “Deep Truth,” recent biography of Woodward and Bernstein, talking to Salon: “Woodward and Bernstein both said ‘All the President’s Men’ was gospel, and that they didn’t embellish. For one thing, they described Deep Throat as a heavy smoker — but Felt stopped smoking in 1943. There are still things that don’t jibe, and I think we still need to look at them.

“Felt suggested in many interviews, and in his own memoir in 1979, that anyone who would reveal the kind of information Deep Throat did would be a traitor. Now today, we have many people lauding Felt as a patriot and an American hero. A lot of so-called Watergate experts have got to be wondering about today’s news, but I think one reason that all of them, and I myself, were wrong is because Felt made so many remarks about being a traitor; if that won’t throw you off, I don’t know what will.”

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Tim Noah of Slate magazine, in a Washington Post online chat: “It is kind of funny that the Washington Post would be scooped by a monthly magazine about the identity of Deep Throat. It’s pretty unlikely that Bob Woodward wouldn’t have known the Vanity Fair piece was in the works. Vanity Fair has an elaborate fact-checking process, and I would think a fact-checker at least attempted to contact Woodward to confirm some details in the story.

“When I spoke to Felt a few years ago, he said in no uncertain terms that for an FBI employee to leak details of a criminal investigation to a newspaper would be a terrible betrayal. Felt was a company man. … I did think [Deep Throat] was Felt for a long time. Lately, though, I’d been thinking it was Fred Fielding!”

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