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Felt No Hero to Nixon Loyalists


It's been about 24 hours since The Washington Post confirmed that Mark Felt, the former number-two man at the FBI, was Deep Throat. The identification of the source behind Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate reporting is the talk of Washington and on the mind of NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.


It's the day after `D-Day,' Deep Throat Day, and slowly the capital begins to adjust itself to life without its longest-running mystery. Former Nixon counsel Len Garment, who had speculated incorrectly about the identity of Deep Throat, said, `Every good secret is entitled to a decent burial. It's about time.' A lot of speculative Deep Throats--John Dean, Al Haig, Henry Kissinger to name a few--will have to be content with other forms of notoriety.

Some of the former president's men are finding it difficult to reach closure over the Trojan horse in the Nixon administration who helped to do them in. Mark Felt is no hero to them. On the talk shows, their deep resentments come through. Patrick Buchanan, who used to write speeches for Nixon, called Felt a dishonorable man who behaved treacherously. Charles Colson, Nixon's special counsel who runs a religious prison fellowship, said he was really shocked that the consummate professional should have acted that way. Gordon Liddy, who masterminded--if that's the right word--the Watergate break-in, said Felt was honor-bound to report to a grand jury rather than leaking to a selective news source. And David Gergen, who served four presidents including Nixon, thought that a question of what the whistle-blowing role of a government official should be was a really hard one.

The identification of Deep Throat bids fair to reignite the controversy over the role of the confidential source. No other source in history has had the effect of helping to bring down a president. But whatever they may say in journalism class about the ethics of insiders spilling secrets, the Nixon-era officials who saw their careers derailed mostly seem to have their minds made up. To them, Felt was a traitor to Nixon and to them. This is Daniel Schorr. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr passed away on Friday, July 23, 2010. See an obituary, photo gallery and an archive of Schorr's commentaries for NPR.
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