Media criticism

Deep Throat *

Bob Woodward confirmed this afternoon that top FBI official W. Mark Felt was his famous secret source for several crucial stories in the Washington Post during the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s. Felt, who lives in Santa Rosa, makes the disclosure in a story in the July issue of Vanity Fair. Kudos then to former L.A. Times staffer Jim Mann, whose 1992 article in The Atlantic Monthly pondered the evidence and concluded that Deep Throat worked at the FBI. Slate's Tim Noah, who specifically deduced it was Felt, reviews it all in a piece this afternoon that opens:

Told you so.

So, in the end, Deep Throat had bureaucratic and personal motivations for leaking — but he provided solid guidance that improved the journalism. His confirmations for Woodward and Bernstein helped them withstand vicious attacks on their reporting from the Nixon White House and break through the notorious stonewall of official lies. Ultimately, then, he is partly responsible for several of the Nixon criminals going to prison. [* And: Nixon and aides suspected Felt, prompting the president to ask if he was a Catholic. Told by chief of staff H.R. Haldeman (incorrectly) that Felt was Jewish, Nixon was taped saying, "Christ, [the bureau] put a Jew in there?"] Partisans have already begun to denounce Felt on TV and radio, but it seems to me he's got virtue on his side. By the way, in the movie of All the President's Men, the book that Woodward and co-reporter Carl Bernstein wrote, Deep Throat was played by Hal Holbrook.

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