Was Fred Fielding Deep Throat? Part 2.

Was Fred Fielding Deep Throat? Part 2.

Was Fred Fielding Deep Throat? Part 2.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
May 8 2003 6:38 PM

Was Fred Fielding Deep Throat? Part 2

Prove that he lied and you're mostly there.

Last month, former investigative reporter Bill Gaines and his journalism students at the University of Illinois identified Fred Fielding as Deep Throat, the anonymous Nixon administration source who is described, but not named, in Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's Watergate memoir, All The President's Men. Chatterbox examined the evidence and concluded that Gaines & Co. had made an excellent (though not conclusive) case. One obstacle was the assertion (in Deep Throat books by two successive Nixon White House counsels, John Dean and Leonard Garment) that Woodward had graciously removed Fielding from suspicion when Fielding was under consideration to become White House counsel at the start of the Reagan administration. (He got the job.) On closer inspection, though, Dean and Garment had gotten this from Fielding, not from Woodward. This raised the fascinating possibility that Fielding, a former deputy to Dean and then Garment, and a beloved friend to both men—especially Dean—had deceived them. Such behavior would have been completely out of character for Fielding, who apparently was (and remains) a charming and profoundly decent man. But that doesn't prove he didn't lie. It may indicate that he lied under extreme duress—say, terror that he'd be found out as Deep Throat? If we could establish for certain that Fielding lied to Dean and Garment, we'd be within shouting distance of proving that he was Deep Throat.

Chatterbox has not established for certain that Fielding lied to Dean and Garment. He has, however, continued to search without success for evidence that corroborates Fielding's claim. The simplest solution would be to ask Woodward himself, but Woodward hasn't returned Chatterbox's multiple phone calls. (In general, Woodward has declined to comment on any aspect of Gaines' investigation.) The second-simplest solution would be to ask Fielding, but Fielding, too, has failed to answer this column's queries. (He has likewise kept anything having to do with Gaines' class at arm's length.) In frustration, Chatterbox scoured the videotape of a panel Fielding sat on in September 1999 at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics. The tantalizing subject was "Investigating the President: From Watergate to Interngate." In the panel discussion, Fielding said that the public had grown dangerously cynical about politics since Watergate. "Prior to Watergate," he said, "there was healthy interplay between various branches of government. After Watergate … quite frankly, people had a shaken confidence." If Fielding were Deep Throat, that might be a possible expression of regret about helping to bring down Richard Nixon. If Fielding weren't Deep Throat (and maybe even if he were), it would merely be a commonly voiced sentiment laying blame on wrongdoers, scandal-chasers, or both.

Chatterbox has scoured the Nexis database and consulted many Deep Throat theoreticians, including Garment and Dean. None of them can cite corroborating evidence about Woodward taking Fielding off the hook. "I have no recollection of hearing that or reading about it" from anyone besides Fielding, Garment informed Chatterbox earlier today. Gaines, who has cast a much wider net than Chatterbox, says he, too, has been unable to find any source on Woodward's alleged papal blessing other than Dean and Garment.

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Herewith, a public plea. Any reader who can provide hard evidence that Woodward, either publicly or privately, has stated that Fielding is not Deep Throat is urged to e-mail Chatterbox at chatterbox@slate.com. Such evidence, obviously, should not include Dean's and Garment's claims, which we've now established to be weakly sourced. Former Reagan administration officials, in particular, are urged to search their memories.