This American scandal rocked the Presidency until it toppled, as well as adding an over-used suffix to almost anything journalists wish to give a reverberating name to. Irangate, EREgate and SGAEgate are recent examples.
In 1972 five men afterwards called ‘The Plumbers’ broke into the HQ of the American Democratic Party’s national committee, in the Watergate Building, a massive modern complex in Washington D.C. Investigations carried out on the spot soon established that the Plumbers’ actions formed part of a campaign to help President Richard Nixon get re-elected.
From the start, the White House obstructed every move to discover the truth, and everybody lied to everybody else, especially the newspapers. Nixon and his immediate staff denied any knowledge of the break-in, but reporters from the Washington Post kept doggedly on the scent of what proved to be the biggest news story of the decade.
Helped by telephone conversations between the hunting reporters and an unidentified man working with the Administration known to them as ‘Deep Throat’, it became blindingly obvious that several of Nixon’s senior staff had been involved in illegal activities, and were now attepting to organise a massive cover-up. Not least among these dignitaries was the President himself.
Several White House officials, aides and secretaries were prosecuted and convicted on criminal charges. Public attention (spurred constantly by the Washington Post) then turned to Richard Nixon. It appeared that the President had not only made but kept several thousand feet of incriminating tapes used on a recording device hidden in his desk. These tapes became world-famous, and were played over and over again to interested (finally bored) listeners right round the planet. Though the tapes’ quality was questionable, the owners of the voices on them were easily identified, and heads began to fall faster and faster. Middle Americans were repulsed and astonished to hear their President using foul language, including every four-letter word that existed plus a few he might have invented.
In August 1974 Richard Nixon resigned from the Presidency to avoid impeachment, which would most certainly have happened if he had not chosen this route. Later, the new President, a decent man not endowed with any noticeable intelligence called Gerald Ford, pardoned Nixon for any federal offences he might have committed.