Watergate 'Deep Throat' Who Finally Coughed to Helping Topple Richard Nixon Dies at Age of 95

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), December 20, 2008 | Go to article overview

Watergate 'Deep Throat' Who Finally Coughed to Helping Topple Richard Nixon Dies at Age of 95


Byline: David Williamson

THE former FBI chief who revealed himself as "Deep Throat", 30 years after he tipped off reporters to the Watergate scandal that toppled a president, has died. Mark Felt was 95.

John O'Connor, a family friend who wrote the 2005 Vanity Fair article uncovering Mr Felt's secret, said yesterday he died on Thursday of heart failure.

The shadowy central figure in one of the most gripping political dramas of the 20th Century, MrFelt insisted his alter ego be kept secret when he leaked damaging information about President Richard Nixon and his aides to The Washington Post.

Some - including Nixon and his aides - speculated that Mr Felt was the source who connected the White House to the June 1972 break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. The FBI second-in-command steadfastly denied the accusations until finally coming forward in May 2005.

"I'm the guy they used to call Deep Throat," MrFelt told Mr O'Connor for the Vanity Fair article, creating a whirlwind of media attention.

Critics, including those who went to prison for the Watergate scandal, called him a traitor for betraying the commander in chief.

Supporters hailed him as a hero for blowing the whistle on a corrupt administration trying to cover up attempts to sabotage opponents.

Mr Felt grappled with his place in history, arguing with his children over whether to reveal his identity or to take his secret to the grave, Mr O'Connor said.

Ultimately, his daughter Joan persuaded him to go public, saying The Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward was sure to profit by revealing the secret after Mr Felt died.

"We could make at least enough money to pay some bills, like the debt I've run up for the kids' education," she told her father, according to the Vanity Fair article. "Let's do it for the family."

The revelation capped a Washington whodunit that spanned more than three decades and seven presidents.

It was the final mystery of Watergate, the subject of the best-selling book and hit movie All the President's Men.

It was by chance that Mr Felt came to play a pivotal role in the drama.

Back in 1970, Mr Woodward struck up a conversation with Mr Felt while they were waiting in a White House hallway.

Mr Felt apparently took a liking to Mr Woodward, then a Navy courier, and Mr Woodward kept the relationship going.

Later, while Mr Woodward and partner Carl Bernstein relied on various unnamed sources in reporting on Watergate, the man their editor dubbed "Deep Throat" helped to keep them on track and confirm vital information. The Post won a Pulitzer Prize for its Watergate coverage.

Within days of the burglary at Watergate that launched the Post's investigation, Mr Woodward phoned Mr Felt.

"He reminded me how he disliked phone calls at the office, but said that the Watergate burglary case was going to 'heat up' for reasons he could not explain," Mr Woodward wrote after Mr Felt was named. "He then hung up abruptly."

Mr Felt helped Mr Woodward link former CIA man Howard Hunt to the break-in. He said the reporter could accurately write that Mr Hunt, whose name was found in the address book of one of the burglars, was a suspect. But Mr Felt told him off the record, insisting their relationship and Mr Felt's identity remain secret.

Worried that phones were being tapped, Mr Felt arranged clandestine meetings worthy of a spy novel. …

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