I let down my friends, let down our country, I let down our system of government.
In 1977, David Frost interviewed former US President Richard Nixon for nearly 29 hours, particularly focusing on the Watergate political scandal. With 45 million viewers, the first instalment of the edited recording was the most widely watched news interview in the history of television. Nixon ultimately admitted his part in the scandal, which had led to his resignation two years earlier.
Upon his resignation, the investigation into Nixon’s involvement was dropped and new President Gerald Ford publicly pardoned his old boss. However, Sir David Frost’s now famous interview with the former president revealed a man who still believed that his actions had been justified.
Frost: So in a sense what you’re saying is that there are certain situations...where the president can decide that it’s in the best interest of the nation or something and do something illegal?
Nixon: Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.
Frost: By definition?
Nixon: Exactly, exactly.
Since Watergate, the suffix '–gate' has become a popular shortcut for journalists to suggest a scandal.
Recent examples include: Flake-gate, when it was revealed that TV star Anthea Turner had received money to promote a chocolate bar at her highly-publicised wedding reception; Camilla-gate, which centred upon a recording of an inappropriate phone conversation between Prince Charles and his future wife while he was still with Princess Diana; Dope-gate, the investigation into alleged drug use by cyclist Lance Armstrong and others; and Gate-gate, in which MP Andrew Mitchell allegedly called a police officer ‘a pleb’ for refusing to let him exit through a gate of his choice.
The Watergate scandal revolved around a 1973 break-in at the Watergate office complex in Washington DC, headquarters of the Democratic Party and President Nixon’s political rivals. The break-in appeared at first to be a normal attempted burglary and the five burglars were caught, charged and sentenced. However, it then emerged that one of them was a Republican Party security aide and cash found on the burglars was connected by the FBI to a slush fund used by the Committee for the Re-Election of the President; the official organisation of Nixon's campaign.
Evidence began to mount that this was much more than just a simple burglary attempt and testimony provided by former White House staff suggested that Nixon might have known about the incident and had subsequently taken illegal action in an attempt to cover it up. It was then discovered that the president had a tape-recording system installed in his offices and that there may be recordings that could implicate him. After a lengthy court battle, the US Supreme Court ruled that the president had to hand over the tapes to government investigators. The content of what became known as ‘the Watergate tapes’ provided sufficient evidence to suggest that Nixon was in the know and, rather than wait to be impeached, Nixon resigned from the presidency on August 8th 1974; the only US president to date to do so.
To this day it is not known exactly why the five men broke into the Watergate complex but it is considered most likely that it was to obtain information that would aid Nixon’s re-election campaign.
Nixon was the first president to visit all 50 states and the first to visit China.
Henry Kissinger tried to scare the Soviets into thinking that Nixon was mad enough to start an atomic war.
Watergate showed more strengths in our system than weaknesses. The whole country did take part in quite a genuine sense in passing judgment on Richard Nixon.
Richard Nixon applied unsuccessfully to join the FBI.
Nixon had the White House pool replaced with a bowling lane.
Worried about his grades at law school, Richard Nixon broke into the Dean’s office – only to discover that he was top of his class.
Even Napoleon had his Watergate.