W. Joseph Campbell

Posts Tagged ‘Deep Throat’

The media myths of Watergate: Part Three

In Anniversaries, Debunking, Media myths, Newspapers, Quotes, Washington Post, Watergate myth on June 19, 2012 at 5:25 am

This is the third of five posts addressing prominent media-driven myths about the Watergate scandal, which began
unfolding 40 years ago this week with the foiled burglary at the headquarters in Washington of the Democratic National Committee.
This installment discusses the most famous made-up line of Watergate.

“Follow the money.” It’s the best-known, most popular turn-of-phrase associated with the Watergate scandal of 1972-74.

Felt: Never said it

It’s often said that “follow the money” was sage counsel offered by the stealthy, high-level “Deep Throat” source with whom Bob Woodward of the Washington Post periodically met as the scandal unfolded.

The guidance to “follow the money” supposedly proved crucial in understanding and unraveling the labyrinthine scandal that was Watergate.

Except that it really wasn’t.

“Deep Throat” never advised Woodward to “follow the money.”

The passage appears in no Watergate-related article or editorial in the Post until June 1981, nearly seven years after Nixon’s resignation. It doesn’t appear, either, in All the President’s Men, the book Woodward and his Post colleague, Carl Bernstein, wrote about their Watergate reporting.

Follow the money” was written into the screenplay of All the President’s Men, the cinematic adaptation of Woodward and Bernstein’s book.

The line was spoken by Hal Holbrook, the actor who played “Deep Throat” in the movie. (The real “Deep Throat” was self-revealed in 2005 to have been W. Mark Felt, a senior FBI official.)

Holbrook in All the President’s Men turned in a marvelous performance as a twitchy, conflicted, chain-smoking “Deep Throat.”

‘All the President’s Men,’ the movie

He delivered the line, “follow the money,” with such raspy assurance and conviction that it seemed for all the world to be vital to understanding the scandal that began unfolding 40 years ago.

Follow the money” is certainly Watergate’s most memorable and mythical phrase; it is so pithy and emphatic that it seems almost too good not to be true.

Indeed, “follow the money” tends to be treated with reverence by news media. A “credo,” it’s been called.

Take, for example, a recent post at the “Daily Intel” blog of New York Magazine. The blog post began by invoking the famous phrase, with emphasis:

Follow the money. The pithy investigative advice Woodward and Bernstein attributed to Deep Throat is still brilliant and important, whatever else the Watergate reporters may have embellished.”

Brilliant and important?

Made up is more like it.

But even if Woodward had been counseled to “follow the money,” the advice neither would have unraveled the Watergate scandal nor led him to Nixon.

Besides, Woodward and Bernstein already were on the money trail.

One of their most important stories was in reporting that a $25,000 check to Nixon’s reelection campaign had been deposited in the bank account of one of the Watergate burglars.

The scandal, though, was much more than Nixon’s improper use of campaign funds. The president was forced to resign because he obstructed justice by approving a plan to cover up the burglary at the Democratic National Committee.

The simplified, follow-the-money construct not only is inaccurate and misleading: It serves to deflect attention from the array of forces that combined to expose Nixon’s crimes.

As I note in my 2010 book Getting It Wrong, rolling up a scandal of Watergate’s depth and dimension required “the collective if not always the coordinated forces of special prosecutors, federal judges, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, as well as the Justice Department and the FBI.

“Even then,” I write, “Nixon likely would have served out his term if not for the audiotape recordings he secretly made of most conversations in the Oval Office of the White House.

“Only when compelled by the Supreme Court did Nixon surrender those recordings, which captured him plotting the cover-up” that cost him the presidency.

WJC

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Did Watergate’s ‘Deep Throat’ know he was ‘Deep Throat’?

In Anniversaries, Debunking, Scandal, Washington Post, Watergate myth on April 15, 2012 at 11:48 am

Felt: Did he know he was 'Deep Throat'?

Barry Sussman, the Washington Post’s Watergate editor in the early 1970s, raises a provocative question about the newspaper’s famous high-level source, W. Mark Felt, a senior FBI official when the Watergate scandal was unfolding.

Did Felt realize that the Post regarded him as “Deep Throat,” as a vital source in reporting the unfolding Watergate scandal? Sussman asks.

The question is pertinent and intriguing, Sussman writes in a recent commentary at the Nieman Watchdog blog, because Felt as a source offered “so little” to Bob Woodward, one of the Post’s lead reporters on Watergate.

And yet it is widely believed Felt offered vital information to Woodward about the emergent scandal.

Although Sussman doesn’t specifically address it, the implication of his observation is that “Deep Throat” may have been more composite than a single source — a literary device to infuse drama in All the President’s Men, the book Woodward wrote with Post colleague Carl Bernstein about their Watergate reporting.

It has long been suspected, though never confirmed, that “Deep Throat” was a composite.

Adrian Havill, the author of Deep Truth, a deliciously scathing biography of Woodward and Bernstein, speculated that “Deep Throat” was “a hybrid of three or four main sources.”

Edward Jay Epstein, in his fine 1976 essay about the Post and Watergate, stated he believed “Deep Throat” was “a composite character.”

More recently, James Rosen, chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, speculated in a book review that “‘Deep Throat’ was more than just Mark Felt.”

Prodded by his family, Felt came forward in 2005 and pronounced himself the source who had been “Deep Throat.” Woodward soon confirmed Felt’s self-disclosure.

But Felt was frail and suffering from dementia. He was forgetful and seldom able to carry on prolonged interviews. (Woodward quoted Felt’s daughter as saying in 2002 that Felt “goes in and out of lucidity.”)

Sussman, as he has on other occasions, asserts that “Deep Throat wasn’t an important source at all” to the Post.

“He was nice to have around, helpful on occasion,” Sussman writes, adding that Woodward and Bernstein “have blown up Felt’s importance for almost four decades or nodded in assent when others did….”

Sussman acknowledges he didn’t know that Felt was supposedly “Deep Throat” before 2005. He also notes that Felt, who died in 2008, often denied having been “Deep Throat.”

And that’s true. In a memoir published in 1979, Felt insisted: “I never leaked information to Woodward and Bernstein or to anyone else!”

Years later, Felt told a Connecticut newspaper that had he been “Deep Throat,” he “would have done it better.”

Felt may have been a liar. Or, as Sussman says, he may not have fully understood that he was considered the source whom the Post referred to as “Deep Throat.”

Sussman’s commentary was prompted by a recent book titled Leak, which claims that Felt was a crucial if sometimes duplicitous source for Woodward on Watergate. (Bernstein, by the way, met Felt only weeks Felt’s death.)

Sussman asserts that Leak “is way off base when it comes to the Post.”

The author of Leak, Max Holland, “accepts a key part of the Watergate myth that really is hokum – that Deep Throat was an important, sine qua non source for the Washington Post,” Sussman writes.

“He not only accepts it; it is his basic premise. This is where his book runs into trouble.”

So why does all this matter now, nearly 40 years after the Watergate scandal began unfolding?

It matters because the mystery of “Deep Throat” was central to establishing the heroic-journalist myth of Watergate, the enduring if misleading notion that Woodward and Bernstein, through their dogged reporting, brought down Richard Nixon’s corrupt presidency.

The identity of “Deep Throat,” as I write in my latest book, Getting It Wrong, was the subject of a 30-year, post-Watergate guessing game — a guessing game that “provided periodic and powerful reminders about the Post and its Watergate coverage, serving to keep Woodward and Bernstein in the public eye far longer than they otherwise would have been.”

Those reminders helped solidify the heroic-journalist myth of Watergate, which to this day endures as the dominant thought misleading narrative about the country’s greatest political scandal.

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‘Immortal advice’ given only in a movie

In Debunking, Media myths, Watergate myth on November 23, 2011 at 8:06 am

Add the New Yorker blog “Rational Irrationality” to the lineup of news organizations and outlets that have invoked Watergate’s most famous made-up line — “follow the money” — as if it were genuine.

Felt: Didn't say it

As if the Washington Post’s stealthy “Deep Throat” source really spoke the line “follow the money” as guidance to unraveling the Watergate scandal.

Which he didn’t.

The “Rational Irrationality” blog the other day joined the likes of the Financial Times, Fox News, the Huffington Post, Minnesota Public Radio, the Providence Journal, media critic Eric Alterman, the Hindu newspaper in India, among others, in invoking the line as if it had been advice earnestly offered by “Deep Throat.”

“Rational Irrationality” referred to the line as “immortal advice,” stating:

“There are two ways to figure out what is really happening in Washington politics. One is to interview Administration officials, congressmen, Capitol Hill staffers, think-tank wonks, and so on, and write down what they say. The other journalistic technique is to heed Deep Throat’s immortal advice to Bob Woodward and follow the money trail. When it comes to budgets and the deficit, the Deep Throat methodology is usually the more informative.”

The line certainly may be timeless. Even “immortal.”  But “Deep Throat” never told Woodward, he of the Washington Post, to “follow the money.”

That line appears nowhere in All the President’s Men, the book Woodward wrote with Post colleague Carl Bernstein about their Watergate reporting — reporting that did not, as I discuss in my latest work, Getting It Wrong, bring down Nixon’s corrupt presidency.

Moreover, “follow the money” appeared in no Watergate-related article or editorial published in the Post  before 1981 — which was years after Nixon quit the presidency in disgrace.

Follow the money” was a line made for the movies: It was written into the screenplay of the cinematic version of All the President’s Men.

The line was memorably uttered not by the real-life “Deep Throat” — who in 2005 was self-revealed to have been W. Mark Felt, formerly a top official at the FBI — but by Hal Holbrook, the actor who played “Deep Throat” in the movie.

Holbrook turned in an outstanding performance as a conflicted, tormented “Deep Throat.”

And he delivered his “follow the money” lines with such grave assurance and certainty that it seemed to offer a way to understand the intricacies of the Watergate scandal.

But as I’ve noted at Media Myth Alert, even if Woodward had been counseled to “follow the money,” the advice would have taken him only so far.

It wouldn’t have led him to Nixon.

What forced Nixon from office in 1974 was not the misuse of campaign funds but the president’s active role in attempting to obstruct justice by covering up the signal crime of the Watergate scandal, the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in June 1972.

Rolling up the scandal of Watergate’s complexity and dimension was scarcely as straightforward as pursuing misused campaign contributions.

As I write in Getting It Wrong, unraveling Watergate required “the collective if not always the coordinated forces of special prosecutors, federal judges, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, as well as the Justice Department and the FBI.

“Even then,” I argue, “Nixon likely would have served out his term if not for the audiotape recordings he secretly made of most conversations in the Oval Office of the White House.

“Only when compelled by the Supreme Court did Nixon surrender those recordings, which captured him plotting the cover-up” that cost him the presidency.

WJC

Many thanks to Instapundit
Glenn Reynolds for linking to this post

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‘Deep Throat’ garage marker errs about Watergate source disclosures

In Debunking, Media myths, Washington Post, Watergate myth on August 18, 2011 at 10:16 am

An historical marker went up the other day outside the parking garage in Arlington, Virginia, where Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward periodically met during the Watergate scandal with a stealthy, high-level source code-named “Deep Throat.”

It’s a handsome marker, artfully scalloped at the top.

Felt: Cagey source

But it errs in describing the information Woodward received from “Deep Throat,” who in 2005 revealed himself as W. Mark Felt, formerly the FBI’s second in command.

The marker, which is titled “Watergate Investigation,” says:

“Felt provided Woodward information that exposed the Nixon administration’s obstruction of the FBI’s Watergate investigation.”

Not so.

Such evidence would have been so damaging and explosive that it surely would have forced Nixon to resign the presidency well before he did, in August 1974.

Felt didn’t have that sort of information — or (less likely) didn’t share it with Woodward.

As described in Woodward’s book about Felt, The Secret Man, the FBI official provided or confirmed a good deal of piecemeal evidence about the scandal as it unfolded.

And he could be cagey and evasive in doing so.

Here, for example, is a passage from Secret Man, in which Woodward discussed efforts he and his Post colleague Carl Bernstein had made to identify Nixon’s chief of staff, H.R. Haldemann, as one of five people controlling a secret slush fund:

“I told Felt that we were going to publish a story next week saying that Haldemann was the fifth and final person to control the secret fund.

“‘You’ve got to do it on your own,’ Felt said.

“I said I expected him to warn me if we were wrong.

“Felt said he would.

“So he was essentially confirming Haldemann?

“‘I’m not,’ he said. ‘You’ve got to do it on your own.’

“It was a distinction that didn’t make sense to me. I was tired of this dancing around.

“‘You cannot use me as a source [on that story],’ Felt said. ‘I won’t be a source on a Haldemann story.””

And so it went.

(All the President’s Men, Woodward and Bernstein’s book about their Watergate reporting, says Woodward’s conversations with “Deep Throat” were intended “only to confirm information that had been gathered elsewhere and to add some perspective.”)

Woodward met Felt at the garage six times from October 1972 to November 1973, the marker notes. The last meeting at the garage was a few months after Felt had been passed over for the FBI directorship and retired.

Not until late summer 1974 — months after Felt left the FBI — did unequivocal evidence emerge about Nixon’s attempt to thwart the agency’s investigation into Watergate.

That came when Nixon complied with a unanimous Supreme Court ruling and surrendered audiotape recordings he had secretly made of conversations at the White House.

A recording of Nixon’s meeting with Haldemann on June 23, 1972, revealed that the president had sought to deflect or derail the FBI investigation into the burglary six days before at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate complex in Washington.

The recording was called the “Smoking Gun” tape — and that tape, not information Felt gave Woodward, exposed Nixon’s guilt and forced his resignation.

The tape offered stunning and incontrovertible evidence that Nixon “had participated in an obstruction of justice almost from the outset” of the scandal, Stanley I. Kutler, the leading historian of the scandal, wrote in The Wars of Watergate.

As I note in my latest book, Getting It Wrong, had Nixon not recorded his conversations, he likely would have survived the Watergate scandal and served out his second term.

The marker outside the “Deep Throat” garage contains another, smaller error, too.

It says it was “erected in 2008 by Arlington County, Virginia.” But the online news site arlnow .com pointed out that the marker went up late last week — “after a three year delay.”

WJC

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Commodity markets and Watergate’s most famous made-up line

In Cinematic treatments, Debunking, Media myths, Washington Post, Watergate myth on June 15, 2011 at 7:56 am

Follow the money,” that famous and dramatic line about the Watergate scandal, was made up for the cinema.

Not in this book

But because it’s so pithy and compelling, the passage is routinely treated as if it had been advice vital to unseating President Richard Nixon and unraveling the greatest scandal in American politics.

The Reuters wire service yesterday offered “follow the money” as if it were genuine, stating in a dispatch posted at the Commodities Now online site:

“‘Follow the money,’ FBI Deputy Director Mark Felt (‘Deep Throat’) told Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein during their investigation into the Watergate break ins. It remains good advice for participants in commodity markets.”

Follow the money” may well be sound guidance for commodities brokers. But in the Watergate scandal, the line had relevance and as dramatic effect only in the movies.

Felt — whose family disclosed in 2005 that he had been the fabled “Deep Throat” source of the Washington Postdidn’t offer such guidance to Woodward during their periodic meetings in 1972 and 1973 as the scandal unfolded. Felt, moreover, never spoke with Bernstein during Watergate.

Nor does the advice to “follow the money” appear in All the President’s Men, Woodward and Bernstein’s book about their Watergate reporting. And the line can’t be found in any Watergate-related article or editorial in the Washington Post before 1981.

The derivation of the line lies in the screenplay of All the President’s Men, the cinematic version of Woodward and Bernstein’s book. The movie came out 35 years ago and has been seen by millions of people, easily qualifying it as the most-viewed film about Watergate.

All the President’s Men included a boffo performance by Hal Holbrook who played the stealthy, conflicted “Deep Throat” character.

Holbrook advised the Woodward character, played by Robert Redford, to “follow the money” — and did so with such quiet assurance and insistence that it sure seemed as if the guidance were vital to rolling up Watergate.

But had the advice indeed been given to Woodward, “follow the money” would’ve have taken the reporter only so far. Watergate, after all, was a scandal far more complex than the misuse of campaign monies.

As I write in Getting It Wrong, my media-mythbusting book that came out last year, some 20 men associated with Richard Nixon’s presidency or his 1972 reelection campaign went to jail for crimes linked to Watergate.

To unravel a scandal of such dimension, I write in Getting It Wrong, “required the collective if not always the coordinated forces of special prosecutors, federal judges, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, as well as the Justice Department and the FBI.

“Even then,” I add, “Nixon likely would have served out his [second] term if not for the audiotape recordings he secretly made of most conversations in the Oval Office of the White House. Only when compelled by the Supreme Court did Nixon surrender those recordings, which captured him plotting the cover-up and authorizing payments of thousands of dollars in hush money.”

As I’ve noted previously at Media Myth Alert, what cost Nixon the presidency wasn’t of the improper use of campaign funds but his obstruction of justice in attempting to thwart the FBI’s investigation of the scandal.

The misunderstanding about “follow the money” is an element in the broader mythology of Watergate, which centers around the historically inaccurate notion that Woodward and Bernstein, through their dogged investigative reporting, brought down Nixon’s presidency.

To embrace that interpretation of Watergate is, I write in Getting It Wrong, “to abridge and misunderstand the scandal and to indulge in a particularly beguiling media-driven myth.”

WJC

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Scoring political points with ‘follow the money,’ that made-up line

In Cinematic treatments, Debunking, Media myths, Washington Post, Watergate myth on February 20, 2011 at 8:06 am

Media myths have many uses, none of them necessarily praiseworthy.

Media myths can offer simplified and misleading versions of important historical events. They can be invoked as presumptive evidence of the power of the news media.

And they can be used to score points against political opponents.

That latter application was evident the other day in a commentary at Huffington Post that invoked the most famous made-up line of Watergate, “follow the money.”

Pope (Sierra Club)

The HuffPo commentary — written by Carl Pope, chairman of the Sierra Club environmental group — declared:

“But if, as Watergate’s ‘Deep Throat’ advised Woodward and Bernstein, we ‘follow the money,’ it’s clear that the real strategic objective of the far right is an American society ruled domestically by a predatory oligarchy and projected globally as a militaristic empire.”

While the claim is exaggerated nonsense, Media Myth Alert is most interested in Pope’s blithe, off-handed use of “follow the money” as if it were genuine, as if it had been vital guidance offered by a stealthy Watergate source. As if it lends Pope’s argument some sort of higher moral authority.

Felt

Deep Throat” — who as it turned out was the second-ranking official at the FBI, W. Mark Felt — spoke periodically with Bob Woodward (but never Carl Bernstein) as the two reporters investigated the emergent Watergate scandal for the Washington Post.

But “follow the money” was advice never given by Felt in periodic meetings with Woodward, which sometimes took place in a parking garage in the Rosslyn section of Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington.

And as I’ve noted at Media Myth Alert, no Post article or editorial related to Watergate invoked “follow the money” until June 1981 – nearly seven years after the scandal forced Richard Nixon to resign the presidency. (The Post article in 1981 simply mentioned that “follow the money” had been used in a fifth grade play.)

“Follow the money” was the creation of screenwriter William Goldman. He has taken credit for writing it into the script of All the President’s Men, the cinematic version of Woodward and Bernstein’s book about their Watergate reporting.

The book came out in 1974, just as Watergate was reaching a climax. The movie was released in 1976, as the wounds of the scandal were just beginning to heal. The book and, especially, the movie served to promote what I call the heroic-journalist interpretation of Watergate — the endlessly appealing notion that Woodward and Bernstein’s reporting brought down Nixon.

Since 1976, untold millions of people — now including Carl Pope — have invoked the line, oblivious to its derivation.

“Follow the money” was spoken by the actor Hal Holbrook, who was the “Deep Throat” character in All the President’s Men.

And Holbrook, who turned 85 last week, played the part exquisitely well.

In a memorable scene depicting a late-night meeting in the parking garage, in which Holbrook tells the Woodward character, played by Robert Redford:

“I have to do this my way. You tell me what you know, and I’ll confirm. I’ll keep you in the right direction, if I can, but that’s all.

“Just follow the money.”

The line was delivered with authority, certainty, and insistence — and it sounded for all the world as if it were advice crucial to understanding and unraveling Watergate.

In that way, it represents a simplified version about how the scandal was uncovered, about how the thread of Watergate corruption led to the Oval Office and Nixon.

Watergate, though, was far more complex than identifying and pursuing a money trail.

As I point out in my latest book, Getting It Wrong, rolling up a scandal of Watergate’s dimensions required more than simply following the money.

I note in Getting It Wrong:

“To roll up a scandal of such dimension required the collective if not always the coordinated forces of special prosecutors, federal judges, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, as well as the Justice Department and the FBI.”

Against the tableau of prosecutors, courts, federal investigations, and bipartisan congressional panels, I write, “the contributions of Woodward and Bernstein were modest, and certainly not decisive,” in the outcome of Watergate.

In the end, Nixon’s efforts to obstruct justice by covering up the break-in at headquarters Democratic national committee headquarters in 1972 was what forced his resignation in 1974.

It’s important to note, too, that “Deep Throat” in real life was no hero. As I point out in Getting It Wrong, Felt was convicted in 1980 on felony charges related to break-ins he had authorized as part of FBI investigations into leftists associated with the radical Weather Underground.

Felt was pardoned by President Ronald Reagan.

WJC

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‘Follow the money’: As if it were genuine

In Cinematic treatments, Debunking, Media myths, Washington Post, Watergate myth on February 4, 2011 at 8:00 am

I followed a hyperlink the other day to the Winter 2010 number of Rethinking Schools magazine to find that Watergate’s most famous made-up line prominently presented as if it were advice vital to unraveling the scandal.

Nixon resigns, 1974

The opening paragraphs of an article in Rethinking Schools, titled “The Ultimate $uperpower,” read this way:

“In 1972, two young Washington Post reporters were investigating a low-level burglary at the Watergate Hotel and stumbled upon a host of unexplained coincidences and connections that reached to the White House.

“One of the reporters, Bob Woodward, went to a high-level government source and complained: ‘The story is dry. All we’ve got are pieces. We can’t seem to figure out what the puzzle is supposed to look like.’

“To which the infamous Deep Throat replied: ‘Follow the money. Always follow the money.’

“For nearly 40 years, ‘follow the money’ has been an axiom in both journalism and politics—although, as Shakespeare might complain, one ‘more honour’d in the breach than the observance.’”

It may be an axiomatic line — it’s certainly invoked frequently enough — but it wasn’t used in the Washington Post investigation of the Watergate scandal.

Nor, it should be noted, did the Post bring down Richard Nixon’s corrupt presidency.

As I note in my latest book, Getting It Wrong, the contributions of Woodward and Bernstein’s investigative reporting, I write, “were modest, and certainly not decisive” to the outcome of Watergate.

The line “follow the money” was created, for dramatic effect, for the movie version of Woodward and Bernstein’s book about their Watergate reporting, All the President’s Men.

It wasn’t the “Deep Throat” source who uttered the line. It was his cinematic character, played in All the President’s Men by the actor Hal Holbrook.

In a scene showing a late-night meeting in a parking garage, Holbrook tells the Woodward character, played by Robert Redford:

“I have to do this my way. You tell me what you know, and I’ll confirm. I’ll keep you in the right direction, if I can, but that’s all. Just follow the money.”

As an article in the Post last summer pointed out that “the film’s most iconic piece of dialogue — ‘Follow the money’ — was never spoken in real life.”

Indeed, as I’ve noted previously at Media Myth Alert, no Post article or editorial related to Watergate used “follow the money” until June 1981 – nearly seven years after Richard Nixon resigned the presidency and well after the successor who pardoned him, Gerald Ford, had lost reelection. (The article in June 1981 merely noted that the line was used in a fifth grade play.)

“Follow the money” was the creation of screenwriter William Goldman. He has taken credit for working it into the script of All the President’s Men, which came out in 1976.

Since then, millions of people — among them, the author of the Rethinking Schools article — have unwittingly repeated the line, oblivious to its falsity, believing it had been guidance vital in rolling up Watergate.

But what harm is there in that? It’s just a movie, after all. A movie made a long time ago.

The phony but often-quoted line is suggestive of the exaggerations that infuse the cinematic version of All the President’s Men — a version that offers up “a neat, tidy, and vastly simplified account” of the scandal, as I write in Getting It Wrong.

The simplified version of Watergate enables viewers “to sidestep the scandal’s complexity while engaging in an entertaining storyline,” I further note.

Follow the money” also lends the inaccurate suggestion that unraveling Watergate was a matter of identifying, pursuing, and reporting about an illicit money trail. It was more than that.

What ultimately brought down Nixon was indisputable evidence of his order to cover up the signal crime of Watergate, the 1972 break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. Nixon’s guilty role in the coverup was captured by audiotape recordings he secretly made of his conversation in the Oval Office of the White House.

Moreover, the movie version of All the President’s Men celebrated and helped firm up what I call the heroic-journalist myth of Watergate. The film’s inescapable but erroneous conclusion is that Woodward and Bernstein were central to unraveling the scandal and to forcing the resignation of a dishonest president.

WJC

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