"Did gay bashing by the prosecutors cause the Watergate cover-up?"

Breaking News

This provocative headline appears on the current website of the gay periodical, the Advocate. It refers to a claim by Douglas Caddy, the attorney who first represented the defendants in the Watergate break-in, that he was singled out by prosecutors as a possible weak link in the Watergate cover-up because he was gay.

Prosecutors wanted Caddy to identify the person who hired him to represent the Watergate defendants. When he refused to say--it was E. Howard Hunt, the former CIA spy and Nixon White House operative whom Caddy had represented on minor matters--Judge John Sirica ordered Caddy to testify. "Never in the history of the American legal system has attorney-client privilege been disregarded so flagrantly," Caddy told the Advocate. Caddy insists that "The judge and the prosecutors had different agendas, but they thought they could push me around.... They thought that since I was a gay man, I could be manipulated and that I wouldn't fight, but they were wrong." Caddy, who had no experience in criminal law, had turned to another lawyer for help defending the Watergate 7. This lawyer, William O. Bittman, agreed to pass hush money along to the defendants, which marked the beginning of the Watergate cover-up. Caddy speculates that if he had remained as the defedants' counsel--he left when he became a target of the prosecutors--"There's a chance it [the Watergate cover-up] would never have gotten to the point it did." Caddy says he had refused to pass along hush money.

HNN Editor's Note The Advocate article that lays out the allegation of gay bashing, which was written by Mike Hudson, is not available online. Caddy himself has written a long account of his involvement in the Watergate case, which is available online and was also published by the Advocate . Caddy's online article, however, doesn't include the allegations of gay bashing. (In an Afterward he does raise the question of gay bashing; he told HNN the webmaster for the Advocate promises to post the Afterward soon.)

This is an excerpt from Mike Hudson's article:

... With the heat on Caddy, the seven Watergate conspirators soon cut ties with him a decision that may have escalated the cover-up. The seven came to be represented by lawyer William O. Bittman, who would eventually confess to handling hush-money bribes given to the break-in suspects from sources tied to Nixon's reelection campaign. Caddy says he had steadfastly turned down offers of hush money for his clients, an assertion supported by testimony in at least one Watergate-related trial.

History proved Caddy's the wiser decision, since tracking the money from CREEP to the burglars was one of the main triggers that brought the Administration's dirty tricks and domestic espionage schemes to light. Caddy also suggests that Sirica's harsh treatment encouraged Hunt and Liddy to proceed with the cover-up, fearing they--like Caddy--would not get a fair hearing. He cites Hunt's memoir, which notes, "If Sirica was treating Caddy ... so summarily, and Caddy was completely uninvolved in Watergate--then those of us who were involved could expect neither fairness nor understanding from him."

Caddy believes he was targeted for dirty tricks of a different sort because he was gay. While he was always careful about his dealings within the very closeted gay population in Washington--a place where double mirrors and undercover agents were the norm at gay bars--Caddy believes the FBI and Washington police attempted to set him up with a gay lure. That assertion appears to be borne out by an 1977 Advocate interview with Earl Robert "Butch" Merritt Jr., a gay FBI informant. D.C. police "asked if [Merritt] knew one of the Watergate attorneys," the article reported. Merritt did not name Caddy but recounted that police "said [the lawyer] was gay [and] asked if I could get to know him ... 'to find out all you can about his private life.'" Merritt declined the assignment several times, he told The Advocate. Merritt's story is also reported in Jim Hougan's 1984 Watergate book, Secret Agenda.

The FBI denies the charge, saying in a letter to Caddy that a lack of documents in its files shows the agency had never investigated him.

Caddy also claims he testified in the first month of the case about attempts to provide hush money to his clients--testimony that was, he says, deliberately deleted from court records in order to hide the connections between the burglars and the president's men.

Would the history of Watergate--a story broken by reporters told by Deep Throat to "follow the money--have been significantly changed had Caddy remained the burglars' attorney? "It's hard to say what would have happened if I remained as counsel, but I had already turned [hush money] down," he says. "There's a chance it would never have gotten to the point it did."...

comments powered by Disqus