Hindsighted Look at Watergate Former `Enemy' Schorr Has the Final Say on Nixon's Scandal

By Walter H. Combs Tribune Media Services | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 7, 1994 | Go to article overview

Hindsighted Look at Watergate Former `Enemy' Schorr Has the Final Say on Nixon's Scandal


Walter H. Combs Tribune Media Services, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The Discovery Channel explores Watergate in a five-hour series airing Sunday through Wednesday. The two-hour premiere episode begins at 8 p.m. Sunday, and the next three begin each evening at 9. A co-production of the BBC and the Discovery Channel, it examines the political scandal with the clear-sightedness that comes from hindsight.

The series was broadcast on the BBC in England this past spring and created a sensation, generating reports about it in several American newspapers. The five hours presented on the Discovery Channel are only marginally different from what aired in England. Noted journalist Daniel Schorr, who was on President Richard M. Nixon's enemies list in the early '70s, is the narrator for the series, and he was given leeway by the Discovery Channel to make minor script changes, "which I exercised discreetly," he says.

The Discovery Channel wanted an American to narrate the program for broadcast in the United States, and Schorr agreed to do so if he were allowed to edit the script so he could make some points he felt were important. "I did like the script," he says, "or I would not have been able to do it."

The series relies on extensive interviews with the participants in the Watergate affair. Prominent among these are White House counsel John Dean; Jeb MacGruder, a political operative caught up in the events; White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, whose recently published diaries created much media comment and an outcry from Nixon partisans; Nixon aide John Ehrlichman; and G. Gordon Liddy, mastermind, along with Howard Hunt, of the Nixon administration's "dirty tricks."

As the series reveals, the background to Watergate lay in the very early stages of the Nixon administration. Vietnam War protests and subsequent events infuriated Nixon, and when Daniel - Ellsberg leaked government documents exploring the origins of America's involvement in Vietnam to The New York Times and The Washington Post, Nixon, as Ehrlichman put it, wanted somebody punished. The administration set up a "Special Investigation Unit" led by Hunt and Liddy, that masterminded not only the break-in at Democratic headquarters in the Watergate complex but an earlier break-in at the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist designed to get information to discredit Ellsberg.

Besides following the events from Nixon's election in 1968 to his resignation in 1974, the series offers insight into the men behind the events. Several of the participants now devote their lives to religious and humanitar- ian causes. MacGruder is interviewed wearing clerical garb. Charles Colson's ministry among prison inmates is well-publicized. …

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