Was Fred Fielding Deep Throat? Part 3.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
May 13 2003 5:35 PM

Was Fred Fielding Deep Throat? Part 3

Reagan's personnel director: "I've never talked to Woodward in my life."

Former Nixon White House counsels John Dean and Leonard Garment claim that before their former deputy, Fred Fielding, was appointed counsel to the Reagan White House, Bob Woodward cleared the way. Woodward did so, they say, by stating that Fielding was not Deep Throat. If Dean and Garment are right, then Reagan's first personnel director, E. Pendleton James (who, coincidentally, worked closely with Fielding throughout the transition that preceded Reagan's inauguration) ought to know about it. But he doesn't. "I've never talked to Woodward in my life," James told Chatterbox.

Dean and Garment both source their stories about Woodward's papal blessing to Fielding. (Curiously, although both men know Woodward fairly well, neither has ever asked him to verify Fielding's claim. Woodward and Fielding both decline to discuss the matter with Chatterbox.) If it could be shown that Woodward never gave Fielding his papal blessing, then Fielding would be caught out in a bizarre and utterly uncharacteristic lie to two old friends (see "Was Fred Fielding Deep Throat? Part 2"). That, in turn, would put us very, very close to proving that Fielding is Deep Throat, as Bill Gaines and his journalism students at the University of Illinois allege. Why, after all, would an innocent man lie to clear his name?

Conceivably, Woodward might have bypassed personnel chief James and had a confidential chat with someone in Reagan's "troika" of top advisers: Ed Meese, Michael Deaver, and James Baker. But at least two of the three remember no such mission of mercy by Woodward. "I can't recall anything like that," Meese told Chatterbox, "and I think that I probably would remember." Deaver conveyed through an assistant that he didn't recall it, either. He suggested I try Baker. Baker, alas, refused to take my call and wouldn't allow me to relay the question via his secretary. (She suggested I try back in a couple of weeks.) Chatterbox has no idea why.

Chatterbox ran all this by Dean and Garment. "I don't know what to say," Dean said. "I'm surprised to hear that none of these people can confirm that Fielding had been cleared by Woodward." Garment said he could imagine that Fielding might have lied to him about Woodward even if he weren't Deep Throat, simply to quiet any possible damaging suspicion. But that sounds pretty rococo to Chatterbox.

If all three members of Reagan's troika and Reagan's personnel director were found to be unaware that Woodward cleared Fielding, Chatterbox would take that as conclusive proof that Woodward never cleared Fielding. As things stand now, the chances that Fielding told Garment and Dean the truth about Woodward are vanishingly small, and the likelihood that Fielding was Deep Throat is getting pretty big. Care to clear this up, Mr. Baker?

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.

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