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Watergate and Nixon

Woodward’s first book with Bernstein, All the President’s Men, became a number-one national bestseller in the spring and summer before Nixon resigned in 1974. The 1976 movie version of All the President’s Men became a classic, with Robert Redford starring as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein. The two reporters devoted a great deal of time to assisting Redford, Hoffman, and director Alan J. Pakula. At Pakula’s urging, Redford often called Woodward while the script was being written—as frequently as three or four times a day.

The movie inspired a wave of interest in investigative reporting as a career and in journalism in general. It is frequently cited as the best movie about the practice of journalism. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that the movie “provides the most observant study of working journalists we’re ever likely to see in a feature film ... And it succeeds brilliantly in suggesting the mixture of exhilaration, paranoia, self-doubt, and courage that permeated the Washington Post as its two young reporters went after a presidency.”

Director Steven Soderbergh said of the movie in a lengthy February 16, 2001, article in the New York Times, “This film is just so secure in its belief that you will be interested in the characters and situations. There is no attempt to whistle up some dramatic high points. It is confident, but quietly so. Which is so rare now. ...This movie just has the perfect balance.” The Post’s own reviewer, Gary Arnold, however, found the movie “emotionally limiting” and lacking “an expansive vision and an elemental spark of showmanship and inspiration.”

Nixon White House Denunciations

In 1972, the reporting of Woodward and Bernstein in the Post was regularly denounced by the Nixon reelection campaign, Republican leaders, and the White House. For example on October 16, 1972, White House Press Secretary Ron Ziegler denounced the reporting as “hearsay, innuendo, guilt by association.” Six months later, on May 1, 1973, Ziegler reversed himself and said, “I would apologize to the Post, and I would apologize to Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein. ... They have vigorously pursued this story, and they deserve the credit and are receiving the credit.”

Subsequently, the investigations of the Senate Watergate Committee, the House Judiciary Committee, and the Watergate Special prosecutor showed that the Woodward-Bernstein reporting had been accurate and perhaps understated the scope and depth of the criminality and abuse of power. More than forty people went to jail because of the Watergate investigations, including Nixon’s top White House aides H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, and Nixon’s main attorneys, former Attorney General John N. Mitchell, White House Counsel John W. Dean, and Herbert Kalmbach, Nixon’s personal attorney.

Senator Sam J. Ervin, chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee, specifically praised “thoroughness of the investigative reporting of Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward, and other representatives of a free press” in the final report. The Senate report follows and supports much of the reporting by Bernstein and Woodward on the Watergate break-in, cover-up, Nixon White House, and 1972 reelection campaign espionage, sabotage, and fundraising.