Historical insight or long-lasting sour grapes?
Two ex-members of the New York Times say they had the tip on Watergate first. They say it came from former FBI chief L. Patrick Gray, the Times reports today.
If true, the revelation also means that the top two officials at the FBI were trying -- it would appear, desperately -- to get the media to follow the break-in story. W. Mark Felt, the associate director of the agency, has already been identified as "Deep Throat," the tipster who guided the Washington Post through the biggest story of a generation.
As I explained to NYT reporter Richard Perez-Pena when he called me to verify and comment on the this story, there is much to doubt about this story. During those two months after the burglary, my father gave dozens of on-the-record interviews to many reporters, including Bob Woodward. He talked at length and on the record with other New York Times and Washington Post reporters. He gave interviews to nearly every important Washington bureau reporter, many of whom are still reporting today. In not one of any of those other interviews did L. Patrick Gray pass along anything like what the two NYT reporters now claim he passed along to them. Readers of this new book will have to judge for themselves why neither the young reporter nor the then-editor can explain why no story was ever written based on the "explosive aspects" supposedly passed along by Gray on this one occasion. Had my father intended to leak anything at all about Watergate or any other subject of interest to the FBI, rest assured that he would have made sure that the story got published.
As for Woodward and Bernstein, serious questions remain unanswered about their own account. As I also explained to Perez-Pena, my father always knew that "Deep Throat" was a fictional composite made up by Woodward from several individual sources. Those individuals included Mark Felt, Donald Santarelli, now-Senator Robert Bennett, and others not yet named by Woodward. See my father's memoir In Nixon's Web which I co-wrote, and our website lpatrickgrayiii.com for details.