The Deep End?  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   June 2002

The Deep End?   

Two parties poised to reveal the identity of Deep Throat

By John Bebow
Bebow is a reporter for the Detroit News.      


Linda Lovelace, the former porn star who inspired the nickname for Watergate's secret prime mover, died in April. Deep Throat drama certainly didn't die with her. Two fresh attempts to identify the Washington Post's greatest source will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break-in this month.

NBC plans a Watergate segment featuring William Gaines, a University of Illinois journalism professor and two-time Pulitzer winner who has databased Deep Throat suspects and clues for more than two years. He's ready to name names. Salon, the online magazine, will publish an e-book by Nixon administration insider John Dean. "The Deep Throat Brief" is his third attempt to finger the crucial source who helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein unravel the scandal that brought down the presidency.

In recent months, Gaines and Dean had been trading information as they both worked to solve journalism's greatest mystery. They remain friendly and cooperative, but neither has much to say about why they'll tell their stories separately or whether their conclusions match. Such is the intrigue of uncovering intrigue.

Gaines says he plans to "name the person most likely to be Deep Throat" in a press release and has also met with "Dateline" producers, who confirm they plan a Deep Throat segment but don't yet have an air date. Earlier this year Gaines told AJR (see Free Press, March) that key research he conducted with the help of dozens of students in an investigative reporting class pointed to the office of John Ehrlichman, Nixon's assistant for domestic affairs. (Gaines has said Ehrlichman himself isn't the man.)

Meanwhile, Dean is sure he's nailed Deep Throat's identity with "a serious piece of historical research that draws a conclusion I think readers will find to be definitive," says Scott Rosenberg, managing editor for Salon. "John's book is exhaustively researched in a manner unlike any previous effort to identify Deep Throat."

If it feels like you've heard this before, you have. While Woodward and Bernstein have refused to name Deep Throat for 30 years, keeping a promise to hold the secret until the tipster's death, Dean has been a regular contributor to the inside-the-Beltway guessing game. Dozens of potential "throats"--from former Nixon press aide Diane Sawyer to one-time White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig to various FBI officials--have had media fingers fruitlessly pointed at them. In 1975, Dean said Watergate prosecutor Earl Silbert was the likely candidate. In 1982, Dean tried Haig.

Why should we believe him now, in his third attempt?

"The book answers all those questions," Dean teased AJR. It will hit the Net June 17. Stay tuned to your television and computer screen.

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