Dick Cavett on Watergate and Trump, on the Slow Burn podcast.

Watergate Was a Terrible Danger to American Democracy—and Dick Cavett Misses It Like Hell

Watergate Was a Terrible Danger to American Democracy—and Dick Cavett Misses It Like Hell

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Nov. 28 2017 6:07 AM

Yearning for Watergate

On the first bonus episode of our new podcast Slow Burn, Dick Cavett admits that it can be fun to live through perilous times.

THE DICK CAVETT SHOW: Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy and Dick Cavett on June 19, 1972.
Dick Cavett interviewing Sen. Ted Kennedy on June 19, 1972.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images.

Bonus episodes of Slow Burn were made exclusively for Slate Plus members. Click here to join.

Dick Cavett says Watergate was fun. A dangerous threat to American democracy, sure—but nonetheless fun. Over two years beginning in June 1972, Cavett became a “Watergate addict.”

That might sound crass, but for the fact that Cavett, as the host of the ABC late-night fixture The Dick Cavett Show, was one of the first major journalists to bring serious attention to the scandal. Only two days after five burglars were caught in the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate Complex, Cavett asked Sen. Ted Kennedy about the intruders’ connections to the Nixon White House, and would later interview nearly all of the names the scandal made famous, including Alexander Haig, G. Gordon Liddy, Woodward and Bernstein, and many others. The White House certainly took note of Cavett’s coverage; his name surfaces on the Nixon tapes 26 times.

In the first members-only bonus episode of Slow Burn, our new podcast series about Watergate, host Leon Neyfakh talks to Cavett about what it was like to live through the unfolding scandal. Neyfakh and Slate’s Jeffrey Bloomer also reflect on the life of Martha Mitchell, the subject of Episode 1, and debate whether we will ever wax nostalgic about the Trump era.

Slate Plus members can find this week’s bonus episode at the top of this page, or in their podcast feed. In case you missed it, here’s Episode 1: Martha.

Notes on Episode 1

In researching Episode 1 of Slow Burn, we made use of the following sources.


Bernstein, Carl and Woodward, Bob. All the President’s Men: 40th Anniversary Edition, Simon & Schuster, 2014.
Dean, John. Blind Ambition: The White House Years, Open Road Media, 2016 (originally published 1976).
Emery, Fred. Watergate: The Corruption of American Politics and the Fall of Richard Nixon. Times Books, 1994.
Lukas, J. Anthony. Nightmare: The Underside of the Nixon Years. Viking Press, 1976.
McLendon, Winzola. Martha: The Life of Martha Mitchell. Random House, 1979.
Perlstein, Rick. The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, Simon & Schuster, 2014.
Reeves, Richard. President Nixon: Alone in the White House, Touchstone, 2002.
Rosen, James. The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate. Doubleday, 2008.
Sussman, Barry. The Great Cover-Up: Nixon and the Scandal of Watergate, 4th ed., Catapulter Books, 2010 (originally published 1974).
Thomas, Evan. Being Nixon: A Man Divided, Random House, 2015.
Thomas, Helen. Front Row at the White House: My Life and Times. Scribner, 1999.

Film and TV

Dickerson, Nancy and Carpenter, William. 784 Days That Changed America, Television Corporation of America, 1982.
Scheinfeld, John. Dick Cavett’s Watergate. Thirteen Productions, 2014.
Gold, Mick. Watergate. BBC, 1994.

News Articles

Cadden, Vivian. “Martha Mitchell: The Day the Laughing Stopped,” McCall’s, July 1973.
Cheshire, Maxine. “The Redskin and the Socialite,” Washington Post, Jan. 15, 1980.
Robertson, Nan. “Martha Mitchell: Capital's Most Talked‐About Talkative Woman,” New York Times, May 1, 1970.
Cimons, Marlene. “Hoover Lauds Martha Mitchell; His Verdict: ‘A Lovable Girl.’” Los Angeles Times, May 25, 1971.
Cimons, Marlene. “Mrs. Mitchell Breaks Mold of Cabinet Wife,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 4, 1970.
Crawford, Clare. “Martha Mitchell plans to leave her spouse; their lives wrecked by Watergate.” Washington Star-News, Jan. 2, 1973.
Radcliffe, Donnie. “Martha Mitchell: Two Long Years After Watergate,” Washington Post, June 17, 1974.
McLendon, Winzola. “When Watergate came, she paid for her big mouth.” Chicago Tribune, July 29, 1979.
McQuiston, John T. “Martha Mitchell, 57, Dies Of Bone‐Marrow Cancer,” New York Times, June 1, 1976.
Thomas, Helen. “Mitchell ‘Broken’ by Watergate, Wife Says.” Thomas, Helen. Los Angeles Times, Aug. 28, 1973.
Evans, Katherine Winton. “Washington's Other Martha,” Washington Post, June 17, 1979.
“Arkansas town to unveil statute of Martha Mitchell,” The Arizona Republic, May 27, 1981.
Woodward, Bob and Bernstein, Carl. “Suspect in Bugging of Democrat Office Found to Be GOP Worker,” Los Angeles Times, June 19, 1972.

Episode 1 makes use of archival footage from the following sources:

The Frost Interview, 9/20/1974 (courtesy BBC/Getty)
NBC Nightly News, 6/19/1972 (courtesy NBC News Archives)
NBC Nightly News, 4/17/1973 (courtesy NBC News Archives)
NBC Nightly News, 8/27/1973 (courtesy NBC News Archives)
The Tomorrow Show, 5/04/1974 (courtesy NBC News Archives)
Laugh-In, season 5, episode 1, 1971 (courtesy Schlatter, Friendly, Romart)
NBC Nightly News, 6/18/1972 (courtesy NBC News Archives)
Watergate: Cover-Up, episode 2, 1994 (courtesy BBC/Getty)
NBC Nightly News, 9/12/1972 (courtesy NBC News Archives)
Watergate: Scapegoat, episode 3, 1994 (courtesy BBC/Getty)
Helen Thomas interview (courtesy AP Archive)
The Dick Cavett Show, 11/08/1973 (courtesy Daphne Productions)
The Frost Interview, 5/26.1977 (courtesy Reelin’ in the Years Productions)

Slow Burn’s theme song is “Back to The Old House” by Niklas Ahlström. Other music in Episode 1 includes “Cloudz” by Jahzzar.

Slow Burn is produced by Leon Neyfakh and Andrew Parsons. Bonus episodes are produced by Leon Neyfakh and Jeff Friedrich.