New Bio of Woodward and Bernstein Is ‘No Love Letter’

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By: Joe Strupp and Greg Mitchell

After more than 30 years of digging up inside information, Watergate legends Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are having the tables turned on them in a new book by Alicia C. Shepard, to be published later this month, that profiles their careers from the early days of Watergate to last year’s revelations about Deep Throat.??

It also includes tantalizing details, such as the night Seymour Hersh took the pair out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, on the eve of breaking his own Watergate scoop in The New York Times. The Washington Post newsroom found out about the Hersh story but couldn?t find Woodward and Bernstein — because they were dining with their rival, the book claims.

Shepard details the role in the Watergate coverage played by the pair’s editor, Barry Sussman, and at one point there was talk of Sussman writing “All the President’s Men” with them, but they decided it was a reporter’s story, not an editor’s. Shepard says when she talked to Sussman about it, he told her, “I don’t have anything good to say about either one of them.”

Then there?s Daniel Green, marketing director at Simon & Shuster, who came up with the title for ?All the President?s Men? in 1973, ?and all he got was a bottle of champagne.? In a wild coincidence, one of Woodward?s favorite professors at Yale was Robert Penn Warren, author of the classic book, ?All the King?s Men.?

Shepard says, in publicity material for “Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow Of Watergate” (John Wiley & Sons), that the two reporters did not cooperate with the book but ?they didn?t try to quiet anyone.? It comes on the heels of mass publicity over the new Woodward bestseller, ?State of Denial,? but her book includes very little on his two previous (more favorable) books about the Bush White House.

She was the first to extensively use the 75 boxes of their Watergate-era papers at the University of Texas in a chronology of both their personal lives and careers.?? While Shepard, an American University journalism professor and longtime media writer, hails their accomplishments on the Watergate scandal, and afterward, she also notes that they didn?t really bring down a president and states that without the book and movie ?All The President?s Men,? they ?would not have the stature they do today.?

Shepard also declares, in the publicity material, that Bernstein ?has dined off Watergate for the last three decades?Let?s face it, they are both controversial, so this book is no love letter.?

Woodward told E&P recently that he did not speak with Shepard for the book. When asked what he thought of it, he said only, “First Amendment prevails.”?

Bernstein, who is continuing to work on a Hillary Clinton biography, said, “We didn’t cooperate with her. I agree with my friend Bob that the constitution, thank God, allows her to write whatever she wants. Our real lives, and our work — together, separately, for books, newspapers, magazines, television, commentary — are out there for anybody to judge on the merits.”??

The book grew out of Shepard’s lengthy oral history for Washingtonian magazine in 2003, for which she did interview the pair, and many quotes from those interviews appear in the book.

The book acknowledges the duo’s historic moment in the sun, but also inspects their lives with an eye toward the mistakes and human errors, following the pair through the Watergate reporting, the co-authored books, and the resulting hefty incomes during the 1970s.?? Shepard used the Texas treasure trove, as well as more than 175 interviews and the archives of David Halberstam and film director Alan Pakula.

Along the way she provides tidbits on everything from the original manuscript of “All the President’s Men” (it was first called ?A Point in Time?) to quotes from Robert Redford’s private notes on his first meeting with Woodward, in which the actor claimed he “cuts you off. Makes you feel that what you are saying is unimportant or that he doesn’t have time. (Bernstein does this too). One wonders if Woodward can ever relax and focus for a long period of time.”

Dustin Hoffman, who played Bernstein, celebrated a Passover Seder with Bernstein and his family during movie preparation, the book relates.

The book also covers Woodward’s controversial volume about John Belushi and his other projects, and Bernstein’s memoir about his parents and other jobs in journalism. It ends with the outing of Deep Throat last year.?? Woodward’s special status at the Post gets a lot of attention, but Bernstein takes the brunt of the criticism along the way. Shepard calls one chapter, “Bernstein Unchaperoned,” and quotes from the divorce records of his breakup with Nora Ephron, as well as a 14-page letter he wrote to her about the depiction of the husband in her “Heartburn” movie.

Amazingly, we learn that Dustin Hoffman was approached to play the husband in that movie — meaning he would have played both the real and fictonalized Bernstein (the part went to Jack Nicholson).

Among the other tidbits:

— Bernstein sought to get a book contract for the pair?s Watergate material as early as September 1972 during a meeting with Daniel Ellsburg’s book agent, David Obst, who told Shepard he got Simon & Schuster publisher David Snyder to sign on — after crying to him.

— The Watergate coverage, which won the Post the Public Service Pulitzer Prize in 1973, was not among the initial finalists in that category, but was elevated to finalist status by the Pulitzer Board weeks after H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman resigned.

— The initial manuscript of ?All the President’s Men? spanned some 1,000 pages, 700 written by Woodward, before being cut by about 40% by editor Alice Mayhew.

— Selling the pair?s Watergate archives to UT had been Bernstein’s idea because he “needed the money,” Shepard quotes former Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee as saying.

— The author points out that Woodward’s current wife, Elsa Walsh, met him as a reporter on his staff when he was an assistant managing editor in the early 1980s. Adding to the strange situation was that Walsh’s onetime roommate was Janet Cooke. Shepard seeks to pin some of the blame on Woodward for Cooke’s infamous scandal, in which she had to return a Pulitzer Prize after admitting she had fabricated a story.

— On last year’s revelation that Deep Throat was former FBI official W. Mark Felt, Shepard portrays Woodward has being hesitant to confirm the identity after Vanity Fair broke it with its story by Felt’s attorney. She writes that Woodward even declined to give the address of the famed underground parking garage depicted in ?All The President’s Men? to a Post staffer who was writing about the revelation for the paper.

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