Iconic Journalist Bob Woodward Talks Journalism, Trump and Watergate in Virtual Stream of Pasadena Distinguished Speaker Series – Pasadena Now

Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward, the legendary Washington Post The journalist who broke the Watergate scandal with his colleague Carl Bernstein, was to speak on January 26 in Pasadena as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series. Due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, this event has gone virtual instead.

The Distinguished Speaker Series crew traveled to Washington, DC to film an extensive interview with Woodward covering Watergate, dealing with Deepthroat, his working relationship with Carl Bernstein, the Trump administration, the attempted coup State of January 6, the pandemic, journalism and more.

Five Watergate Wars

“It turned out that there were five Watergate Wars, all directed, instigated, supported and financed by Nixon or the government,” Woodward said. “The first was a war against the anti-Vietnam war movement. The second was a war on the news media, [including] secret wiretaps of reporters and White House aides. The third was spying on and sabotaging the Democrats. Then when they got caught with the burglary [in the Watergate Hotel], they had to cover it up and so it was war on the justice system. And then even after Nixon resigned, the fifth war was the war against history, to say it was really inconsequential and not that significant.

He pointed out that Senator Sam Ervin, who headed the Senate Watergate Committee, called Watergate “an effort to destroy the process of nominating and electing a president.” Woodward added that it actually works.

“For about $200,000 in dirty money, Nixon and his people launched a campaign of espionage and sabotage against 1972 Democratic frontrunner Senator Ed Muskie – totally derailed him with dirty tricks and ‘espionage,'” Woodward said. “They had a candidate, Senator George McGovern, whom they believed – and they turned out to be correct – that they could beat much easier, and that’s how Nixon won in 1972. Nixon found the point weak in the system we have for nominating and electing presidents.

As it turned out, the Washington Post almost didn’t hire Woodward before the Watergate story broke. Seeing that he had no journalism experience when he applied, they gave him a two-week trial period, during which he wrote a dozen articles which they did not publish. Harry Rosenfeld, who was the editor of Metropolitan at the time, told Woodward, “You don’t know how to do this.

Woodward thanked him and Rosenfeld said, “Why are you thanking me? You’re not hired, you’re finished. Woodward replied, “Because I know that’s what I want to do.” Rosenfeld helped him find a job at a suburban Washington weekly, where he worked for a year before the To post took the plunge and hired him in the fall of 1971. He was the lowest-paid reporter in the newsroom. Nine months later, Woodward was assigned to cover up a heist that would change the course of American history.

“I was always available for boring assignments, and [Watergate originally] looked like one,” Woodward said. “It was a beautiful Saturday, June 17, 1972. Who would be stupid enough to come to work? They immediately thought of me. The city editor called me and said, ‘Come in, there’s been a burglary.’ They thought it was some sort of routine mission. I was covering for the night police and they sent me to the courthouse.

Deep Throat Deep Bottom

It was the first story Woodward and Bernstein worked on together. Woodward had, however, already met the man who would become known to the world as the Deep Throat, W. Mark Felt, second in command in the FBI. The secret informant was given the obscene nickname of To post editor-in-chief Howard Simons, a reference to the 1972 porn film of the same name starring Linda Lovelace as well as the source offering information on so-called “deep backgrounds” in the journalism industry, in which the journalist can use the information without attribution to the source.

Woodward was serving as a lieutenant in the Navy when he first met Felt. An admiral asked him to deliver papers to the White House, and as he waited outside the Oval Office, he struck up a conversation with a gray-haired man in a white shirt.

“We were like two strangers on a long plane ride,” Woodward said. “He said he worked for the FBI, he had a management position, he went to law school. We spoke and I got his number and called him several times with career questions, if I was going to law school, etc. And then I ended up working at Washington Post and realised, ‘Oh my god, this is the guy who’s in charge of the Watergate investigation.’ I called him, he didn’t want to talk much, so we had secret meetings in a parking lot. Which I thought was a bit normal. It turned out that it wasn’t normal, but he was very secretive.

Deep Throat did not provide everything he knew, but guided Woodward and gave him leads and clues that helped unravel the case to the Resolute Desk and ultimately led to Woodward’s first resignation. a president in the history of the United States. Felt was appalled at the way the White House was trying to control and limit the Watergate investigation.

“His mere presence in an underground parking lot at 2 a.m. told me, ‘Hey, there’s something going on here that’s very important and very hidden,'” Woodward said. “I don’t think he wanted to help me, he wanted to help himself.”

Woodward, of course, kept Felt’s identity a secret for decades, until 2005 when Felt came forward. He died three years later. Woodward, however, told someone in the 1980s – his date.

“Elsa Wolf, who is now my wife, asked me when we were dating who Deep Throat was,” Woodward said. “We had a love affair based on trust and I told her. But frankly, from a practical point of view, it helped me as a journalist [to keep the name secret], because people would know that I would protect someone. It created a climate of disclosure that I think didn’t exist naturally.

Because his reporting shot down a Republican president, some may accuse him of being partisan, but he doesn’t see it that way at all.

“I’m interested in facts, I don’t have a partisan point of view,” he said. “I think partisan opinions get in the way of getting the facts.”

“A failure of leadership”

Pasadena Star-News Columnist Doug McIntyre, who conducted the Distinguished Speaker Series interview with Woodward, asked him how history would remember the pandemic. Woodward co-wrote the book Peril with To post journalist Robert Costa, who heralded former President Donald Trump’s early response to the COVID-19 pandemic when published last year.

“We don’t know the outcome, that’s the beauty of journalism,” Woodward said. “You look back, not forward, and you can predict and you can guess, but the future is not known. But fortunately the past is, and that’s why most journalistic efforts should go forward pass.

McIntyre also asked about Trump’s level of culpability regarding the pandemic.

“It turns out his liability is absolute,” Woodward said. “He revealed what he knew in a criminal way, in effect, to say he knew all of this so early.”

Woodward sat down with Trump in the Oval Office in February 2020 for an interview for Peril, in which Trump said the virus was airborne and severe before most people understood this about COVID-19. And in late January, Trump received a top-secret briefing from then-national security adviser and Pasadena resident Robert O’Brien, who told him the virus was going to be the biggest national security threat during his tenure. presidency.

“It was complete alarm bells, that this was going to be a pandemic, much worse than the SARS pandemic, which really didn’t hit the United States,” Woodward said. “Imagine you’re the President of the United States, and you’re sitting in this top-secret briefing and [then-Deputy National Security Advisor] Matt Pottinger, who had been the wall street journal reporter in China, a real expert on China, says, “I have contacts who tell me that 650,000 people are going to die in the United States because of this. And that is precisely what happened. Trump told me what he had learned but did not tell the public and continued down this path of denial.

Trump told Woodward he didn’t want to freak people out, and that’s why he painted a rosier picture just before the pandemic essentially forced the entire world to shut down.

“It’s the failure of leadership, because leadership has to tell the truth,” Woodward said. “Trump could have mobilized the public and said, ‘I have been warned, I will share this warning with you.’ But he failed to do so.

McIntyre asked why Trump would want to talk to Woodward, knowing the outcome likely wouldn’t be flattering for Trump.

“He was definitely trying to get his point across, but one of the things you learn in journalism is that it’s best not to try to speculate on people’s motives,” Woodward said. “You can only describe someone’s behavior by actions and statements.”

“Zero” proof

Regarding the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, Woodward speculated that there was more coordination of the attack than is currently known, which is part of what the House is investigating. Select Committee on the January 6 attack.

“Whether they’ll find it or if it’s going to be one of those historical mysteries, like the Reichstag fire in Germany in the 1930s, we’ll see,” Woodward said. “What binds Nixon and Trump is this ability to see the weakness of a system, this great democracy that has worked for a long time. It has had its moments of failure historically, but it has never failed so much as under Nixon in 1972 and potentially under Trump in the January 6 certification process.

In PerilWoodward and Costa revealed the story of Conservative lawyer John Eastman, who recently presented in a lawsuit between the Pasadena Republican Club and the City of Pasadena that was decided in favor of the latter – wrote a memo in which he “presented a coup scenario for Trump and met with Trump to review it,” said said Woodward.

Woodward and Costa reported that Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee read Eastman’s memo and investigated some of Rudy Giuliani’s claims about voter fraud, and then determined there was no proof that the 2020 election was stolen.

“Zero,” Woodward said. “Now if you go back to Watergate, suppose two of Nixon’s biggest supporters had investigated and concluded that Nixon was behind this – that would have had immense credibility. I went on national TV several times and said, “Call me, here’s my phone number.” Give me evidence that this election was stolen. Never heard of anyone because there is no proof. They call it “the big lie”. I don’t call that the big lie. There is no proof, no case. A big lie often contains a bit of truth. It has no truth.

Upcoming talks in the Distinguished Speaker Series include Jay Leno and Malala Yousafzai. Learn more about loudspeakersla.com.

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