One of the greatest mysteries of modern times may have been solved. May have been. Or not – see below.
Ex-FBI Official Says He Was Deep Throat
May 31, 2005 — By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Mark Felt, a former FBI deputy director, claims to be “Deep Throat,” the legendary source who leaked Watergate scandal secrets to the Washington Post and helped bring down President Richard Nixon, Vanity Fair magazine said on Tuesday.
Unmasking the identity of “Deep Throat,” the key Watergate source for Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, would solve one of the greatest political and journalistic mysteries of modern times.
The magazine said Felt, now a 91-year-old retiree living in Santa Rosa, California, admitted his role to his family and the magazine. It is the first time a major potential source has claimed to be “Deep Throat.”
Woodward and Bernstein have refused for decades to reveal the name of their source, fueling an intense guessing game by historians and political observers that spawned multiple books, documentaries and investigations.
First, there is reason to be suspicious of Felt’s claim. As the article notes, and our esteemed J School Dean Lee Coppola emphasizes, neither Woodward, Bernstein, or Ben Bradlee have confirmed Felt’s claim. Coppola, in a past life as a highly respected investigative reporter, accumulated plenty of experience with confidential sources, and says this one doesn’t smell right. The source outs himself, you go ahead and confirm it.
On the other hand, the Deep Throat case may represent an exception. Woodward once told my colleague John Hanchette, a Pulitzer-winning former investigative reporter with deep links into DC’s political and media culture, that he wouldn’t name the source until after he/she was dead, no matter what. So perhaps Felt was Deep Throat, and those who know are simply sticking to the plan? Have to wait and see.
Hanchette goes on to suggest that Felt’s announcement will lead to a burst of activity from those who have always believed Deep Throat was a composite of multiple sources.
I’m willing to accept that possibility. It’s nice to think of it as one person, like they depicted it in the movie, who would emerge from behind a pillar in a dark parking garage. But there’s a lot of information attributed to Deep Throat that leaves conspiratorially minded people to suspect it was actually a lot of different sources.
Finally, as interesting as Deep Throat’s identity is, an ABC News Fact Sheet reminds us of the sheer surreality of the saga. Scroll down toward the bottom to the “Other Suspects” section. There check out Suspect #4:
Diane Sawyer – the ABC anchor worked in the White House press office at the time.
If you’re wondering why I think this is so twisted, you haven’t watched Good Morning America lately. It’s hard to imagine that somebody as vapid as Sawyer was ever taken seriously.
File under O, for “Oh, how the world has changed.”