Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Watergate Curiosity Shop (II)
Politics was a Washington blood sport long before the Clintons moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. During Watergate even the ‘good guys’ played the game.
Len Garment relates a particularly nasty episode in his book Crazy Rhythm.
In late 1973 someone from the Watergate Special Prosecutor’s office leaked a transcript of a White House tape to Sy Hersh of the New York Times. According to Hersh, Nixon had discussed an SEC investigation with John Dean. In the course of the conversation Nixon called two of the SEC investigators “Jew boys.”
That night a furious Nixon summoned Garment to the White House. He vehemently denied using the slur. He ordered Garment to listen to the tape and then demand a retraction from the Times.
The next day a dubious Garment listened to the tape. He was surprised to find that Nixon was right: the phrase “Jew boys” never occurred. The men from the SEC were described as “Jewish boys”but not by Nixon.
It was John Dean who said it.
Garment called Clifton Daniels, the Washington Bureau chief of the Times. He offered to let him hear the tape so that he could run a retraction. Daniels delayed and negotiated but never attempted to verify Garment’s claims. Nor did the Times ever correct their false story.
It is a small incident, not even a footnote in the conventional histories of Watergate. Yet it is telling.
Someone in the righteous band of Watergate prosecutors saw fit to doctor a transcript and leak it to Sy Hersh with the obvious intent to libel the president. Had one of Nixon’s men done something like this, it would have made it into the Articles of Impeachment. But because one of the ostensible ‘good guys’ pulled this dirty trick, the New York Times did not care.
BTW, I’m sure that the fact that Clifton Daniels was Harry Truman’s son-in-law had nothing to do with how Gray Lady handled this.