In 1990, former Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee told journalist Barbara Feinman, who was helping him on his memoir A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures, that he had “a little problem with Deep Throat.” Bradlee, who was then 69 years old, continued:
Did that potted [plant] incident ever happen? … and meeting in some garage. One meeting in the garage? Fifty meetings in the garage? I don’t know how many meetings in the garage … There’s a residual fear in my soul that that isn’t quite straight.
This confession and other findings drawn from Ben Bradlee’s papers appear in a book excerpt that was published in New York magazine last night. The excerpt has sparked a near riot in Watergate Nation – the principals who reported the story, other journalists, history buffs, and political devotees for whom the 1972 Democratic National Committee headquarters break-in and Nixon administration cover-up remain an inexhaustible topic of fascination.
The excerpted book, Yours in Truth: A Personal Portrait of Ben Bradlee, which goes on sale May 8, is by former Bob Woodward researcher Jeff Himmelman. Himmelman first surveyed the Bradlee papers as part of a proposed book collaboration with Bradlee, but after the veteran editor decided against writing the book, he gave Himmelman sanction to write his own book based on the material.
Himmelman’s New York excerpt exploits his Bradlee-in-doubt finding for maximum dramatic potential. First, he confronts Woodward with the Bradlee quotations and recounts at length his former boss’s reaction. (Bob is rattled.) Next, he recounts a morning powwow at Bradlee’s house in which Bradlee, Woodward and Himmelman discuss the merits of publishing the two-decades-old interview about Bradlee’s Deep Throat “problem,” debating whether or not it should be included in the Himmelman book. Naturally, Woodward is opposed, saying it would give “fodder to the fuckers” who hate Bradlee, the Washington Post, the Post‘s Watergate coverage, and Woodward.