Bernstein, Carl, 1944-....

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On June 18, 1972, a Washington Post front page story reported the previous day's break-in at the Democratic National Committee's office in the Watergate complex in Washington, DC. Five men were arrested while attempting to photograph documents and place bugging devices in the offices. The White House dismissed the crime as a "third-rate burglary," and much of the nation's media soon dropped interest in what some jokingly referred to as "the Watergate caper." But two of the reporters who worked on that first Washington Post story, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, continued tracking down sources and pursuing leads on what became the biggest story of twentieth-century American politics.

Robert Woodward, born March 26, 1943, in Geneva, Illinois, was raised in nearby Wheaton. The son of a Republican lawyer and judge, Woodward attended Yale University on an ROTC scholarship, graduating with a BA in History and English in 1965. He then served as a communications officer in the US Navy from 1965 to 1970. After leaving the service, he contemplated attending law school, but then decided to seek reporting jobs with the Washington Post or the New York Times . Turned down for a lack of experience, he spent a year as a reporter for the Montgomery County Sentinel in Maryland before getting a position at the Washington Post in 1971. At the time of the Watergate break-in, Woodward had been at the Post less than nine months and had worked as a reporter for less than two years.

Carl Bernstein was born February 14, 1944, in Washington, DC, and raised in nearby Silver Spring, Maryland. His parents were social activists and members of the American Communist Party. He began working as a copy boy at the Washington Evening Star at age sixteen, and after finishing high school attended classes part-time at the University of Maryland. He eventually began contributing stories at the Star and in 1965 moved to New York City to work as a reporter at the Elizabeth Daily Journal in New Jersey. After one year at the Journal, Bernstein returned to Washington, DC, and took a reporter position at the Washington Post .

At first the two reporters worked independently of one another. Woodward discovered that one of the burglars, James McCord, Jr., was a former CIA employee, recently employed as a security coordinator for the Committee for the Re-election of President Nixon (CRP). He also tracked a phone number in one burglar's address book to White House consultant Howard Hunt. Bernstein was able to confirm the burglar's calls to Hunt through telephone records, and also traced a check in one burglar's bank account to the CRP. With support and guidance from Post editors Barry Sussman, Harry Rosenfeld, Howard Simons, and executive editor Ben Bradlee, Woodward and Bernstein combined their efforts to further explain the break-in, seeking information from hundreds of administration officials, campaign workers, White House staffers, and other sources.

For several months, Woodward and Bernstein continually wrote front page stories exposing links between Watergate and the CRP, but were unable to directly connect the burglars to anyone close to Nixon. One of Woodward's sources, identified on May 31, 2005, as FBI Associate Director Mark Felt, provided deep background information, on the condition that Woodward never identify, quote, or use him as a sole source of the information. Deep Throat, as Felt was labeled by Howard Simons, confirmed the reporters' suspicions and leads, and helped focus their investigation on the trail of money from the burglars to the CRP to the White House. Eventually, in an October 10, 1972 story, Woodward and Bernstein were able to disclose in detail that the Watergate break-in was part of a larger effort to sabotage Nixon's political opponents--paid for through the CRP under the direction of some of Nixon's closest aides.

White House Press Secretary Ron Ziegler reacted with strong criticism to the story, questioning the methods and political motivations of the Washington Post and the two reporters. After Nixon's re-election in November 1972, many thought the story would die, but instead, repercussions from the break-in continued. In January 1973, the five Watergate burglars and two former White House employees who directed them, Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, were convicted for the break-in. In February, the U.S. Senate formed a committee to investigate the Nixon campaign. And in March, Watergate burglar James McCord, Jr. informed Judge John Sirica that he and the other burglars had lied during their trials, were pressured by the White House to withhold information, and that high-ranking officials had known about the Watergate break-in plan.

By April 1973, the Post, numerous other news agencies, and the Senate committee were all focused on discovering what knowledge, if any, Nixon had of the Watergate burglary. On April 30, due to the mounting evidence of their personal involvement, Nixon's Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman, Domestic Affairs Advisor John Ehrlichman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst all resigned and Presidential Counsel John Dean was fired. At a press conference the following day, Press Secretary Ziegler apologized to Woodward, Bernstein, and the Washington Post for his previous criticism, admitting to the validity of their stories.

In May 1973, the Washington Post received the Pulitzer Prize for Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate coverage. Interest in what the two reporters had accomplished was growing, and a book offer from Simon and Schuster had already been made. Originally planning to write a story from the burglars' perspective, Woodward and Bernstein decided instead to tell the story of their investigation of the break-in and the cover-up. While still covering the ongoing Watergate story for the Post, they worked on the book nights and weekends, eventually taking a five-week leave of absence to write full time.

Published in June 1974, All the President's Men was a best-seller, receiving strong reviews and extensive media coverage. The book revealed the existence of "Deep Throat," causing great speculation about his identity, particularly since the Watergate story continued to unfold after the book was published. In July 1973, the Senate investigating committee had uncovered the existence of the taping system used by Nixon to record meetings in the Oval Office. In February 1974, the House Judiciary Committee began impeachment hearings. And one month before All the President's Men was released, a federal grand jury indicted seven of Nixon's top aides in the Watergate cover-up and informed the judge that there was enough evidence to indict Nixon, but they did not have the legal authority to charge the President.

After the release of All the President's Men, Woodward and Bernstein continued covering Watergate for the Post and began making plans for a follow-up book. Soon after Nixon's resignation on August 9, 1974, they took another leave of absence to work on what became The Final Days . Focusing on Nixon and the inner workings at the White House over the last 100 days of his administration, Woodward and Bernstein found that with Nixon out of office, many high-level White House and government personnel were willing and eager to talk to them and explain their side of the story. They hired two research assistants, Scott Armstrong and Al Kamen, and proceeded to interview nearly 400 people, promising them complete anonymity since many still worked in government or had continuing connections to Nixon or other politicians.

As they worked on the new book, production began on a movie version of All the President's Men starring Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein. The actors and director Alan Pakula relied heavily upon the two reporters for their opinions and insight on the film's content and authenticity. Opening in April 1976, the film was greatly successful and later won four Academy Awards, including best screenplay adaptation for William Goldman.

The same month the movie opened, pre-publication excerpts from The Final Days were released in Newsweek . Strong reactions to the excerpts, which included details about Nixon's personal life, were often negative and highly critical of Woodward and Bernstein. Commentators pilloried the book as an invasion of privacy and an unnecessary attack on the already humiliated Nixon. Despite the criticism, the book was soon a best-seller after its release in May. By then, many reviews noted that as a whole, the book was not an attack on Nixon. Some even found it to be somewhat sympathetic towards the former President. Still, facts and events from the book were questioned by Nixon's friends and family, and some obvious sources denied ever speaking with Bernstein and Woodward. Some questioned the credibility of the work due to the lack of footnotes and named sources, even though many acknowledged that it would have been impossible to write without the promises of anonymity.

With increasing fame and notoriety, Woodward and Bernstein had themselves become the focus of numerous news stories. While often forced to defend their own work, they criticized other reporters and journalism in general for simply reporting official comments on important events without question or critical investigating. To many in America, the two reporters were heroes who stood up against power and corruption, and enrollment in journalism schools soared as students sought to follow the examples set by the two role models.

Soon after finishing The Final Days, Bernstein left the Washington Post in 1976. He contributed articles to Rolling Stone, the New Republic, and Time and worked as Washington Bureau Chief for ABC News from 1979 to 1981. From 1981 to 1984 he was a correspondent for ABC in New York, and since 1992 has been a visiting lecturer at New York University. In addition to his books with Woodward he has written Loyalties: A Son's Memoir (1989), His Holiness: John Paul II and the Hidden History of Our Time (1996) with Marco Politi, and A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton (2007).

Woodward continued working at The Washington Post, becoming assistant managing editor in 1981. He also continued writing and has produced numerous best-sellers. In addition to his books with Bernstein he has written The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court (1979) with Scott Armstrong, Wired: The Short Life of and Fast Times of John Belushi (1984), Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987 (1987), The Commanders (1991), The Man Who Would be President: Dan Quayle (1992) with David Broder and Dan Quayle, The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House (1994), The Choice (1996), Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate (1999), Maestro: Greenspan's Fed and the American Boom (2000), Bush at War (2002), Plan of Attack (2004), and State of Denial (2006). He also co-wrote the television movie Under Siege (1986) and mini-series The Nightmare Years (1989) with Christian Williams.

From the guide to the Watergate Papers 79415218., 1964-2001 (bulk 1972-1976), (The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Tom McCall Forum Collection, 1982-2007 Pacific University Archives
referencedIn Gore Vidal papers, 1850-2020 (inclusive), 1936-2008 (bulk) Houghton Library
creatorOf Watergate Papers 79415218., 1964-2001 (bulk 1972-1976) Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Auth, Tony. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein Watergate Papers, 1964-2001 (bulk 1972-1976). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Buchen, Philip W. (Philip William), 1916- person
associatedWith Buzhardt, J. Fred (Joseph Fred), 1924-1978 person
associatedWith Ehrlichman, John person
associatedWith Ford, Gerald R., 1913-2006 person
associatedWith Goldwater, Barry M. (Barry Morris), 1909- person
associatedWith Haldeman, H. R. (Harry R.), 1926- person
associatedWith Harlow, Bryce Nathaniel, 1916- person
associatedWith Jaworski, Leon person
associatedWith Korff, Baruch, 1914- person
associatedWith Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994 person
associatedWith Rhodes, John J. (John Jay), 1943- person
associatedWith Richardson, Elliot L., 1920- person
associatedWith Scott, Hugh, 1900-1994 person
associatedWith St. Clair, James D. person
associatedWith Tom McCall Forum corporateBody
correspondedWith Vidal, Gore, 1925- person
associatedWith Washington Post Company corporateBody
associatedWith Woodward, Bob person
associatedWith Woodward, Bob, 1943- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Presidents--United States--History--20th century
Journalists--United States
Journalism--United States
Press and politics--United States
Watergate Affair, 1972-1974
Investigative reporting--United States
Political corruption--United States


Birth 1944-02-14





Ark ID: w6xp86b3

SNAC ID: 3789613