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The Watergate Affair
This analysis of the news media coverage will focus on the Watergate
affair which originally began on June 17, 1972 with the break-in of the
Democratic National Committee Headquarters at the prestigious Watergate office
complex in Washington D.C.. I will primarily concentrate on the negative impact
that media coverage had to the publics eye. This media coverage, although
justified and appropriate for the situation, ultimately destroyed the
credibility of Nixon's administration and the ability to run an effective
government which forced the first resignation of an American president.
The history of the events at hand is as follows. The Nixon
Administration financed a White House Special Investigative Unit called the
plumbers. This unit was initially established under John Erlichmann a top White
House aide, to ?plug? leaks from the White House to the press and consisted of
former FBI and CIA operatives. It comes to fact that these plumbers were
involved in illegal break-ins and wiretapping before the Watergate scandal. On
June 17, 1972, the night watchman at the Watergate complex discovered adhesive
tape on the basement doors of the complex. Five men were arrested that night
and began a series of inquiries and investigations into the possible corruption
of White House Officials. (Encyclopedia of the American Presidency, Volume 13,
Among those arrested on the night of June 17, 1972 were James McCord Jr.,
security coordinator for the Committee for the Re-election of the President (CRP
also known as CREEP). (New York Times, June 21, 1972, page 1, column 3)
Immediately after the arrests, the news media had already began initial
accusations and offering possible motives to the public through statements like:
? There was continuing speculation here and in the Cuban community in
Miami that unnamed men, in or out of an anti-Castro organization, had carried
out a number of politically sensitive operations to win the Governments sympathy
for 30,000 to 40,000 Cuban refugees living in Spain.? (4 Hunted in Inquiry on
Democratic Raid, New York Times, June 21, 1972, page 44, column 1)
On June 20, it came to the attention of President Richard Nixon that
there were connections made between the burglars and CRP and various White House
personnel. The president, on June 23, recommended that the CIA should prevent a
FBI inquiry into the Watergate incident based on national security interests.
To no avail, the FBI continued its investigation and eventually sifted through
the maze of paper trails and cover up. Evidence began to surface, pointing to
the administration itself. Realizing the internal nature of this situation,
stories began to look like this:
? No one was making any accusations yet, but in the midst of a curious
non-cooperation from the White House and the Committee for the Re-election of
the President, the suspicion grew that someone not far from the center of
Republican power in Washington had engineered the Watergate Caper.? (Watergate,
Contd., TIME Magazine, August 14, 1972, page 21)
As time went on, more and more evidence had begun to surface. On
September 15, 1972, the Justice Department obtained the indictments of seven men
said to be implicated: James W. McCord, Bernard L. Barker, Eugenio R. Martinez,
Frank A. Sturgis, and Virgilio R. Gonzalez, the five men originally arrested at
the Watergate complex. Also involved, and indicted were G. Gordon Liddy, chief
of the security unit called the ?plumbers? and former White House consultant, E.
Howard Hunt. These men were all charged with conspiring to break in and plant
listening devices into the phone lines at the Democratic National Headquarters.
One man, although implicated, was not charged. His name was Alfred Baldwin, an
FBI agent who was a bodyguard for John Mitchell, the campaign manager, and his
wife. Mr. Baldwin had admitted to being assigned by James McCord to monitor and
transcribe the transmissions from the illegal bugs. These transcriptions were
then given to McCord who then turned them into memos that were distributed among
the CRP. (Investigations: Seven Down On Watergate, TIME Magazine, September 25,
1972, page 21)
The funds used for this operation were authorized by one man, Jeb Stuart
Magruder, who became one of Nixon's committee's deputy directors. Before
joining CRP, Magruder was an assistant to the President's chief of staff, H.R.
Haldeman, then later became assistant to Herb Klein, Director of Communications.
It has been said that Magruder was sent to Klein to spy on him for Haldeman.
Magruder, was not charged or indicted because he thought the money was being
used to get information about radicals and protesters who may try to disrupt the
Republican National Convention. (Denials and Still More Questions, TIME
Magazine, October 30, 1972, pages 18-19)
The news media continued to portray the event as a conspiracy from the
highest pinnacle of power within the United States.
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