Watergate-Style Journalism: The Biggest Threat to Our Democracy

Watergate Hotel

Guest post by John D. O’Connor

The Washington Post’s pompously pretentious masthead daily proclaims: “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” as if its stellar journalism will protect us all from those who cover up the truth. But as we have seen from the recent Trump verdict, the Post’s Watergate-style journalism is being used to promote falsehood and degrade those who would help our country.

The trial just concluded of a former President featured the admission of irrelevant, highly prejudicial and deceptive hearsay, such as Michael Cohen’s sham guilty plea to election crimes, while highly pertinent expert testimony, rejecting any campaign violation, was prohibited. The slanted jury instructions virtually directed the jury to find guilt. Yet mainstream media gave little clue of any of the foregoing.

What does Watergate journalism have to do with this? Fifty years after Nixon resigned in disgrace, the Washington Post is still dining out on causing a theretofore popular President’s downfall. As it did with Nixon, the paper has been telling the world for the past nine years that Trump should be the next to be impeached or voted down, because he is a threat to democracy, as evidenced by his claimed lies. With Trump’s recent conviction, the Post is putting these attacks on steroids, pretending he received a fair trial. He did not.

Examination of its Watergate reporting proves that the paper has been for over five decades perpetrating lies, first falsely accusing the likes of Nixon, and now Trump, among others. These two, with their easily villainized personas, have proven easiest to convict in the court of public opinion. One seemed characteristically sneaky, complete with a five o’clock shadow, while the other bloviates and blusters, caricatured with an orange, gravity-defying combover. Anyone who watches television knows that these are two bad guys who should be exposed within forty-four minutes, an irrational, sophomoric impression promoted by this self-proclaimed intellectual powerhouse paper.

What the paper is now trying to do to Trump, it successfully did to Nixon. A President overwhelmingly re-elected by a landslide of 49 states in 1972, was “proven” by the Post to have won in part by a massive criminal conspiracy, thus delegitimizing what seemed theretofore to have been a fair, democratically achieved victory. Of course, if Nixon were “convicted” in the court of public opinion by a journalistic fraud, wouldn’t this deception epitomize the true danger to democracy?

In fact, that is precisely what happened to the cartoonishly skulking Nixon, brought down by two seemingly clean-cut, sleeves-rolled-up reporters, who in fact concealed highly pertinent exculpatory information from the public, facts of which even Nixon’s Oval Office team was unaware.

To this day, the Washington Post still claims, dishonestly, that the Watergate burglary, ridiculously silly though it seemed, was a campaign operation by a President who was irrationally afraid to lose and could not play fair. However, the burglary, the Post had known, but will not admit, was not a campaign operation at all.

While the paper repeatedly told the public that the CIA was falsely spotlighted by Nixon as somehow being involved, the Post knew, more so than the speculating President, that the CIA was indeed behind the burglary. The burglary’s moneyman, Gordon Liddy, years later claimed he had been duped and that the prior wiretapping and subsequent bungled burglary were about prostitution. In the face of the crazed but honest Liddy’s late-blooming accusation in the 1990s, the Post adamantly, but falsely, assured its readers that this caper had not been about prostitution.

While in fact the Post’s gold-plated source “Deep Throat”, FBI Associate Director Mark Felt, had originally hypothesized that the burglary may have been part of a White House “dirty tricks” campaign, that hypothesis was ultimately disproved. But the paper continued to tout it as proven, even though Felt later told Woodward, in the tense May, 1973, garage meeting, that the CIA was threatening murder to keep its involvement concealed.

Did the Post print this dramatically revealed fact? It printed not a word at the time, doing so only later, and at that elliptically, in the book and the movie, to provide sensationalism, while continuing to absolve the CIA, an absolution it knew to be false.

The Post had far more knowledge of what really happened than did Nixon’s Oval Office, which remained befuddled about who ordered the burglary and why. The Post knows that falsely accused former Attorney General John Mitchell did not order the burglary but has not reported on the logical implication of the paper’s prior incorrect reporting.

I wrote a recent book about this journalistic coverup, thinking, naively it turns out, that the Post would give the public its best defense of these charges, which it would have done if it had acted in good faith during the scandal. But it kept mum. Isn’t this an example of democracy dying “in darkness”?

Now to Trump, who, like Nixon, pursued popular, successful policies. Putting aside the question of election irregularities, which Trump complains prevented a narrow 2020 victory, the far greater harm to Trump came from a series of knowingly false anti-Trump accusations which the Post, together with other outlets, reported, while covering up strong contrary evidence, well before the farcical trial just completed.

The Post and other media acolytes knew, for example, that the anti-Trump “Russian collusion” claims were most likely false, and in fact participated through one of its reporters in the entrapment of one Trump official, General Michael Flynn, the only aide who could have easily punctured this jejune “Russiagate” narrative.

Did the Post know that Christopher Steele was in fact a regular retainer of Putin friend, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska? And that Steele’s employer Glenn Simpson represented oligarch Denis Katsyv’s and Putin’s interests in trying to undo the Putin-despised Magnitsky Act? It knew or easily could have known these facts but covered them up. Or that Hillary Clinton and Jake Sullivan had created this story out of whole cloth?

It also concealed that the newly-elected Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky had been supported by the country’s most corrupt oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, represented by Hunter Biden, meaning that further foreign aid should be premised on a new anti-corruption certification, as per State Department requirements. By concealing these pertinent facts, the paper dishonestly covered up a valid basis for Trump’s demands to investigate Biden corruption. Today, we are finally realizing that much of our foreign aid to the war-torn country has been stolen. Had the paper been honest, Ukraine might have a much better chance of victory over Russia. But impeaching the hated Trump was higher on the Post’s partisan agenda.

Of course, the Post and its bedfellows knew that Hunter Biden’s laptop was not “Russian disinformation” but covered up the story, causing Trump’s narrow loss. It knew shortly after the COVID pandemic hit that there were two successive “CGG” sequences in the virus, proving it had been developed in a lab, but adamantly advocated against the lab leak theory. Why? Because that would likely have helped Trump and hurt Anthony Fauci, thereby damaging Biden. Instead, the paper suggested that Trump was trying to falsely blame the pandemic on China and Dr. Fauci’s covert contract to fund the lab through the Obama Administration.

While the Post was engaged in covering up the truth about COVID, it made sure to sensationally keep a list of 30,573 lies Trump had allegedly told. One Post claim about Trump, comprising hundreds of separate alleged falsehoods, was that the President lied when he claimed he was building a “wall” along the Mexican border. This, the Post absurdly claimed through its intrepid lie-tracking department, was in fact a “bollard-styled fence,” not a wall! I’m not making this up. Now, in the face of a grossly unfair trial, the Post gives the false impression that Trump actually committed a felony, as opposed to being the victim of a kangaroo court.

In light of the above, who is it that is trying to see to it that our “democracy dies in darkness?” The answer is that it is not politicians who put their best foot forward, as every politician does. It is a media who, like the ancient Pharisees, stand in front of the temple to thank God that they are not sinful like other men. So, if in fact our democracy is dying in darkness, and there is strong evidence of that, exactly who are the parties attempting to kill it?

John D. O’Connor is a former federal prosecutor and the San Francisco attorney who represented W. Mark Felt during his revelation as Deep Throat in 2005. O’Connor is the author of the books Postgate: How the Washington Post Betrayed Deep Throat, Covered Up Watergate and Began Today’s Partisan Advocacy Journalism and The Mysteries of Watergate: What Really Happened.


Thanks for sharing!