Katharine Graham – Heroine of Watergate Part I
Katharine Graham’s cool leadership and steady hand at the helm of the Washington Post were absolutely vital in:
Reporting – and revealing the full measure of the threat to American democracy – of the Watergate break-in at Democratic National Committee Headquarters in Washington, D.C. (17/6/72).
Steadfastly supporting Post Managing Editor (later Executive Editor) Ben Bradlee and young reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their determined pursuit of the heart of the Watergate story – White House knowledge - and funding of – a broadly-based-political sabotage operation with the ultimate purpose of destroying any and all political, social, media, creative, intellectual and other opposition, suspending the 1976 elections, and ruling the country by executive fiat and – if necessary – martial law.
Standing as a bulwark with a role of the press in protecting and defending freedom of democracy – people’s right to know (and to act upon what they know) as a fundamental element in the democratic process.
Watergate - and all that was revealed with it - led to the first-ever resignation (by Nixon) of a president of the United States.
Married for 23 years to Philip L. Graham (Harvard Law School Graduate, Clerk for Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, World War II veteran, purchaser of the Washington Times Herald and NEWSWEEK Magazine, visionary of radio, television and an international news service and head of the Washington Post Company) when he took his own life – in 1963 – Katherine Graham assumed control of the company. She selected Ben Bradlee – then Washington Bureau Chief for NEWSWEEK – as Managing Editor of the Post in 1965.
The years of Nixon’s increasingly iron-fisted rule posed ever-greater challenges - both personal and professional - for Mrs. Graham. Watergate occurred within the context of:
The murder of four student anti-war demonstrators at Kent State University – Ohio by national guard troops / 4 May, 1970 (Nixon soon called the students "bums").
The Post's backing of The New York Times in starting to publish the Pentagon Papers. – The Papers revealed secret expansion of the Vietnam war under Nixon and his predecessor, Lyndon B. Johnson. Nixon’s administration tied up publication of the Papers for 15 days before the Supreme Court ruled that attempts to suppress the Papers – and the public’s right to know – were a violation of the First Amendment and an act of unconstitutional prior restraint.
The Post picked up the torch from The Times – 17/6/71 – after The Times had started running articles about the papers – 13/6/71.
Nixon’s threats against the FCC Licence Renewal of two Post Company television stations – and its efforts to get a right-wing millionaire to buy the Post.
The White House "freezing out" of Post reporters – a policy made explicit, from Nixon on down, in a substantial and continuing series of memos. Other newspapers and reporters quickly rose up and enforced a protest against White House attempts to stifle their colleagues at the Post.