Ben Bradlee Has ‘Deep Throat’ Doubts in New Book

Apr 30, 2012 12:47pm
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A forthcoming biography of Washington Post President at Large Ben Bradlee drags readers back into the 40-year-old Watergate controversy, once thought put to bed.

In an excerpt released to New York Magazine, author Jeff Himmelman writes about discovering a two-decade-old interview with Bradlee–the editor who oversaw Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the 70s–in which he questioned the validity of the Deep Throat narrative as well as the story of Woodward and Bernstein’s secret source who used flower pots to arrange meetings.

In 2005, an article in Vanity Fair magazine revealed that former FBI Associate Director William Mark Felt was that secret source. Woodward and Bernstein had said they would wait until after his death to indicate who Deep Throat was, but after the article, Felt, Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee all confirmed it.

In this new book, Bradlee’s words seem to indicate he was unconvinced of some of the theatrics behind the Deep Throat saga.

“Did that potted [plant] incident ever happen? … and meeting in some garage. One meeting in the garage? Fifty meetings in the garage? I don’t know how many meetings in the garage … There’s a residual fear in my soul that that isn’t quite straight,” Himmelman quotes Bradlee as having said in an interview in 1990.

Himmelman makes it clear Bradlee did not doubt the duo’s overall reporting. Still, such a question from the very editor who oversaw the reporting chips away at the Hollywood tale that Watergate has become for the field of investigative reporting.

Woodward rejected Bradlee’s doubts and the excerpt of the book published in New York Magazine. He told Politico a more recent 2010 interview shows that Bradlee did have confidence in the story of Deep Throat.

“There’s a transcript of an interview that Himmelman did with Bradlee 18 months ago in which Ben undercuts the [New York magazine] piece. It’s amazing that it’s not in Jeff’s piece,” Woodward said, according to Politico.

But Bradlee’s wife Sally Quinn offered a statement to the Washington Post from her husband that suggested he would stand by Himmelman’s account of the 1990 interview.

“I love Bob, and I love Jeff, and I trust them both, and let’s move on,” Quinn told the Post reporter on behalf of her husband.

Himmelman has ties to both Woodward and Bradlee. He previously contributed to books written by Woodward and also by Ben Bradlee’s son, Quinn.

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