Episode 2 of Slate’s podcast about Watergate.

How Nixon Blocked Congress’ Investigation Into Watergate, in Episode 2 of Slow Burn

How Nixon Blocked Congress’ Investigation Into Watergate, in Episode 2 of Slow Burn

History in real time.
Dec. 5 2017 6:00 AM

The Defeat of Wright Patman

The first congressional investigation into Watergate didn’t go so well.


In 1973, the Senate Watergate hearings gripped the nation. But the first congressional hearings on the scandal took place a year earlier—and featured an angry Texan shouting at four empty chairs.

In the second episode of our new podcast about Watergate, Leon Neyfakh discovers the populist congressman Wright Patman, who tried to investigate the scandal—and was thwarted by the White House.


Slate Plus members get a bonus episode of Slow Burn every week. This week we hear from Jane D'Arista, who was working as a staffer for Patman during his aborted investigation, and who explains why she believes the congressman's phones were being monitored by the Nixon administration. Leon also talks to Slate's Jeffrey Bloomer about the campaign finance loophole that helped Nixon fund the Watergate burglary.

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.

Did you live through Watergate? Call our voicemail at 646-665-7382, and tell us what you remember about the scandal. We may use your voicemail on an upcoming episode of the show.

Notes on Episode 2



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

Holmes, T. Michael. The Specter of Communism in Hawaii. University of Hawaii Press, 1994.


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.


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

Young, Nancy. Wright Patman: Populism, Liberalism, and the American Dream. Southern Methodist University Press, 2000.

News articles

Alsop, Joseph. “Senate Halts Justice.” The Daily Chronicle. June 8, 1973.


Bernstein, Carl and Woodward, Bob. “Bug Suspects Got Campaign Funds.” The Washington Post, Aug. 1, 1972.

Boyd, Marjorie. “The Watergate Story: Why Congress Didn’t Investigate Until After the Election,” Washington Monthly, April 1973.

Fox, Justin. “Andrew Mellon's Conflicts, and Trump's.” Bloomberg View. Jan. 27, 2017

Hersh, Seymour. “The Pardon: Nixon, Ford, Haig, and the transfer of power.” The Atlantic, August 1983.

Schmelzer, Janet. “Wright Patman and the Impeachment of Andrew Mellon.” East Texas Historical Journal: Vol. 23, Issue 1, 1985.

Stoller, Matt. “How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul.” The Atlantic, Oct. 24, 2016.

Werth, Barry. “The Pardon.” Smithsonian, February 2007.

Texan, Texan & Texan.” Time, Monday, Jan. 25, 1932

House Panel Bars Pre-Nov. 7 Inquiry Into Bugging Case.” New York Times, Oct. 4, 1972.

Episode 2 makes use of archival footage from the following sources:

NBC Nightly News, Aug. 1, 1972 (courtesy of NBC News Archive)

Longines-Wittauer Chronoscope with Wright Patman, 1953 (courtesy of the National Archives)

NBC Nightly News, Sept. 13, 1972 (courtesy of NBC News Archive)

NBC Nightly News, Oct. 12, 1972 (courtesy of NBC News Archive)

White House Press Conference, Aug. 29, 1972 (courtesy of the Nixon Presidential Library)

White House Tapes, Sept. 15, 1972 (courtesy of the Nixon Presidential Library)

NBC Nightly News, Sept. 15, 1972 (courtesy of NBC News Archive)

NBC Nightly News, Oct. 3, 1972 (courtesy of NBC News Archive)

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

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