"A true newspaperman" who "told stories that needed to be told"
Barack Obama has paid a warm tribute to Ben Bradlee, the editor of the Washington Post during the president-toppling Watergate scandal, who has died aged 93.
As executive editor from 1968 until 1991, Bradlee became one of the most important figures in Washington, as well as part of journalism history, while transforming the Post into one of the most dynamic and respected publications in the United States.
Bradlee’s work guiding young reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they traced a 1972 burglary at the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate office and apartment complex back to the Nixon White House has been celebrated from journalism schools to Hollywood.
Mark Felt, a former No. 2 official at the FBI, revealed in 2005 that he was Deep Throat, the source who revealed key secrets to the Post in clandestine meetings.
Speaking that year, Bradlee said: “People talk to journalists for a reason. It is up to the journalist to understand the reason as best he can and I think that we did understand Mark Felt. He was disturbed by what he saw happening in the White House, what he saw being covered up and he decided to go public.”
In 2013 Obama awarded Bradlee the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the US.
His death at his Washington home of natural causes was announced by the Post, which reported late last month that he had begun hospice care after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for several years.
What was the Watergate scandal?
- ‘Watergate’ became a major political scandal in the US in the 1970s.
- It began with President Richard Nixon’s administration’s attempts to cover up its involvement in a June 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters in the Watergate office complex in Washington DC.
- Five men were initially arrested for breaking and entering into the offices on June 17, 1972.
- The FBI connected cash found in the burglars’ possession with a slush fund used by Nixon’s official campaign organisation, the Committee for the Re-election of the President (CRP).
- An investigation conducted by the Senate Watergate Committee saw evidence mount against the president’s staff. In July 1973, it was revealed that Nixon kept a tape recording system in his offices, which he used to record multiple conversations.
- A legal battle ensued, which resulted in the US Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling that Nixon must hand over the tapes to official investigators.
- The recordings implicated the President in the break-in. It was revealed that he had attempted to conceal dubious events which had taken place after the burglary, and also uncovered multiple abuses of power.
- In the face of almost-certain impeachment in the House of Representatives and a probable Senate conviction, Richard Nixon resigned from his role as US President on August 9, 1974.
- Almost a month later, on September 8, Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford issued a pardon to him.
- As a result of the scandal and subsequent investigation, 69 people were indicted, with 48 people found guilty and incarcerated following trials or pleas, many of whom were top officials in the Nixon administration.
- The term ‘Watergate’ is now synonymous with a range of secret – and often illegal – activities engaged in by President Nixon’s administration. The suffix ‘-gate’ is now commonly used to refer to political scandals both in the US and worldwide.