May 31, 2005 -- -- After more than 30 years of silence, the most famous anonymous source in American history, Deep Throat, has identified himself to a reporter at Vanity Fair.
W. Mark Felt, 91, an assistant director at the FBI in the 1970s, has told lawyer John D. O'Connor, the author of the Vanity Fair article, that he is "the man known as Deep Throat."
Only four people were said to know the source's identity: The Washington Post's Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein; Ben Bradlee, the former executive editor of the Post; and, of course, Deep Throat himself.
"W. Mark Felt was 'Deep Throat' and helped us immeasurably in our Watergate coverage," Woodward and Bernstein said in a statement. "However, as the record shows, many other sources and officials assisted us and other reporters for the hundreds of stories that were written in The Washington Post about Watergate"
In confirming the story to ABC News earlier, Felt's son W. Mark Felt Jr. said, "This is all very tumultuous."
O'Connor told ABC News in an interview today that Felt had for years thought he was a dishonorable man for talking to Woodward. Woodward's coverage of the scandal, written with Bernstein, led to the resignation of President Nixon.
"Mark wants the public respect, and wants to be known as a good man," O'Connor said. "He's very proud of the bureau, he's very proud of the FBI. He now knows he is a hero."
The identity of Deep Throat, the source for details about Nixon's Watergate cover-up, has been called the best-kept secret in the history of Washington D.C., or at least in the history of politics and journalism.
Despite years of feelings of negativity and ambivalence, O'Connor said, Felt's family has helped him realize that "he is a hero" and "that it is good what he did."
In his 1979 book, "The FBI Pyramid: From the Inside," Felt flat-out denied that he was the famous source.
"I would have done better," Felt told The Hartford Courant in 1999. "I would have been more effective. Deep Throat didn't exactly bring the White House crashing down, did he?"
Former Nixon adviser David Gergen, who was suspected as the confidential source himself, reacted in an e-mail to ABC News. "Yes, am pleased that Mark Felt has finally unmasked himself," he wrote.
"[N]ot wholly surprising but still it is good to resolve ... have always thought that it would be someone with (a) access to investigatory records and (b) a motive. Felt clearly had access; the question becomes one of motive."
Throughout the years, politicians and journalists have guessed at Deep Throat's identity.
Contenders included Gen. Al Haig, who was a popular choice for a long time, especially when he was running for president in 1988. Haig was Nixon's chief of staff and secretary of state under President Reagan.
Woodward finally said publicly that Haig was not Deep Throat. Other contenders mentioned frequently, besides Felt, included Henry Kissinger; CIA officials Cord Meyer and William E. Colby; and FBI officials L. Patrick Gray, Charles W. Bates and Robert Kunkel.
In "All the President's Men," the 1976 movie of the Watergate scandal, Woodward and Bernstein described their source as holding an extremely sensitive position in the executive branch.
The source was dubbed "Deep Throat" by Post managing editor Howard Simons after the notorious porn film.