Katharine Graham – Heroine of Watergate Part II
Threats were made to Mrs. Graham’s personal safety. A dear friend with administration contacts warned her "not to be alone." Very clear threats against the lives of Woodward and Bernstein were also delivered.
Former Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell’s threat : "... Katie Graham’s gonna get her t- - caught in a big fat wringer..." When Bernstein – calling from the Post’s newsroom – reached him over the phone late at night at a hotel in New York to inform him that the Post was running a story that Mitchell (when he was then Attorney General) was one of the five people in control of a secret "slush" fund at the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP) that was to be used to gather intelligence on the Democrats.
Part of Mrs. Graham’s remarkable courage in fighting off the Nixon administration's attempts to break the Post Corporation – and the Post itself – via Licence challenges, personal threats and forcing the Corporation to spend vast amounts of funds on huge legal fees to protect its very survival was that she set out across the country making speeches defending the press in general and the Post in particular.
The trial of the "Watergate Seven" – the five actual burglars and two others who had managed the operation – led to convictions and, soon after, claims that higher-ups at the White House were involved and threats made against the lives of those convicted if they spoke up about their connection to Nixon and those around him.
Following the award of the Pulitzer Prize to the Post for the meritorious reporting on Watergate came the bombshell testimony before a Select Senate Investigating Committee – from a highly placed White House aide – that the vast majority of conversations in the Oval Office were on tape.
Finally forced to release the tapes in full after his offer of edited transcripts was ruled in Court to be insufficient, Nixon became the first President in American history to resign. (He had been preceded in disgrace by numerous aides and advisors, many of whom ended up convicted of conspiracy and sent to jail.)
Katherine Graham’s courage – along with her faith in freedom of the press, and her brave and loyal team of editors at the Washington Post – serves as an inspiration to all those who cherish democracy – and the right to know as a major contributing factor to the best interest of the people.
In the darkest days of the greatest domestic threat to freedom the United States has ever witnessed, Katherine Graham – and the Post – stand as a beacon light.