Episode 3 of Slate’s Watergate podcast Slow Burn.

Why Did It Take So Long Before Anyone Cared About Watergate?

Why Did It Take So Long Before Anyone Cared About Watergate?

A podcast about Watergate.
Dec. 12 2017 6:00 AM

A Very Successful Cover-Up

For a long time, no one cared about Watergate. Why?

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After the Watergate break-in, reporters competed to uncover new details of a possible government conspiracy. Democrats pushed the issue hard. Walter Cronkite devoted special segments of his CBS News show to it.

Why didn’t anyone care?

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In the third episode of Slow Burn, Leon Neyfakh looks at the indifference with which the public responded to the Watergate affair during the 1972 election campaign.

Slate Plus members get a bonus episode of Slow Burn every week. This week, Leon Neyfakh talks to Joseph Califano Jr., who was working as a lawyer for the Democratic National Committee and the Washington Post at the time of the Watergate break-in. Leon also talks to Slate's Jeffrey Bloomer about the most brazen “dirty tricks” that were dreamed up by Nixon’s re-election committee.

If you are logged into your Slate Plus account, you can find this week's bonus episode in the player below this paragraph, or find it in your members-only podcast feed. Not yet a member? Click here to join.

Call the Watergate memory line and tell us what you remember about living through the scandal: 646-665-7382. We may use your voicemail on an upcoming episode of the podcast.

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Notes on Episode 3

Books

Bernstein, Carl and Woodward, Bob. All the President’s Men: 40th Anniversary Edition, Simon & Schuster, 2014.

Broder, David S. Behind the Front Page, Simon & Schuster, 1987.

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Dean, John. Blind Ambition: The White House Years, Open Road Media, 2016 (originally published 1976).

Kutler, Stanley. The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon. W. W. Norton, 1992.

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Lang, Gladys Engel and Lang, Kurt. The Battle for Public Opinion: The President, the Press, and the Polls During Watergate. Columbia University Press, 1983.

Lukas, J. Anthony. Nightmare: The Underside of the Nixon Years. Viking Press, 1976.

Perlstein, Rick. The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, Simon & Schuster, 2014.

Schell, Jonathan. The Time of Illusion, Vintage, 1976.

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Stahl, Lesley. Reporting Live, Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Sussman, Barry. The Great Cover-Up: Nixon and the Scandal of Watergate, 4th ed., Catapulter Books, 2010 (originally published 1974).

News articles

Bagdikian, Ben. “The Fruits of Agnewism,” Columbia Journalism Review, January/February 1973.

Bernstein, Carl and Woodward, Bob. “FBI Finds Nixon Aides Sabotaged Democrats,” Washington Post, Oct. 10, 1972.

Lukas, J. Anthony. “The Story So Far: Dirty Tricks,” New York Times Magazine, July 22, 1973.

Noah, Timothy. “‘Acid, Amnesty, and Abortion’: The Unlikely Source of a Legendary Smear,” The New Republic, Oct. 22, 2012.

Sperling, Godfrey Jr., “Credibility Is Watergate Problem,” The Daily Messenger, Nov. 2, 1972.

Witcover, Jules. “ ‘Canuck’ Episode: A ‘72 Dirty Trick,” Washington Post, Sept. 23, 1973.

Colson Says President Threw Ashtray in Anger,” New York Times, July 29, 1974.

Episode 3 makes use of archival footage from the following sources:

NBC Nightly News, 2/26/1972 (courtesy of the NBC news archive)

NBC Nightly News, 10/12/1972 (courtesy of the NBC news archive)

NBC Nightly News, 10/16/1972 (courtesy of the NBC news archive)

NBC Nightly News, 9/13/1972 (courtesy of the NBC news archive)

NBC Nightly News, 8/09/1972 (courtesy of the NBC news archive)

NBC Nightly News, 9/29/1972 (courtesy of the NBC news archive)

NBC Nightly News, 2/21/1972 (courtesy of the NBC news archive)

NBC Nightly News, 9/13/1972 (courtesy of the NBC news archive)

White House Press Briefing, 10/25/1972 (courtesy of the Nixon Presidential Library)

NBC Nightly News, 6/20/1972 (courtesy of the NBC news archive)

NBC Nightly News, 9/07/1972 (courtesy of the NBC news archive)

NBC Nightly News, 10/25/1972 (courtesy of the NBC news archive)

CBS Evening News, 10/31/72 (courtesy of CBS/Wazee)

CBS Election Special, 11/7/72 (courtesy of CBS/Wazee)

Watergate Trial Tapes, November 1972 (courtesy of the Nixon Presidential Library)

Watergate: Scapegoat, Episode 3, 1994 (courtesy of BBC/Getty)

NBC Nightly News, 3/23/1972 (courtesy of the NBC news archive)

Slow Burn’s theme song is “Back to the Old House” by Niklas Ahlström. Other music in Episode 3 includes “F.O.” by Jahzzar and “Clean Soul” by Kevin MacLeod.

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