Max Holland: New Questions About Deep Throat in ‘All the President’s Men’: Watergate Revisited

Roundup: Talking About History

Max Holland, a contributing editor at The Nation and the Wilson Quarterly, is the author of Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat.

For several decades following the 1974 publication of All the President’s Men, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward have had to fend off critics of their bestselling account. For the most part, they have succeeded wildly, sloughing them off as ill-informed skeptics, untrustworthy revisionists, and plain sore losers.

But now comes a criticism from perhaps the one person capable of putting All the President’s Men in its place by poking holes in the Deep Throat saga. That’s because the voice of dissent is Ben Bradlee, The Washington Post editor made equally famous by the book and eponymous movie.

In a 1990 interview conducted by Barbara Feinman, who was then helping Bradlee compile his memoirs, the Post’s executive editor during its fabled Watergate coverage volunteered the observation, “You know I have a little problem with Deep Throat.”

“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.”

Nothing akin to this sentiment appeared in Bradlee’s memoir, A Good Life, when it was published in 1995. The “residual fear” remark was discarded (an “outtake, Woodward would later call it), and the only discordant note Bradlee sounded was that in retrospect, he was “amazed” that he had accepted Woodward’s desire to keep Deep Throat’s identity secret from him. “[Given the high stakes] I don’t see how I settled for that, and I would not settle for that now,” Bradlee wrote....

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