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Deep Throat

Political Scandal Figure

Born: 17 August 1913
Died: 18 December 2008
Birthplace: Twin Falls, Idaho
Best known as:

Mysterious informer of the Watergate scandal

Name at birth: William Mark Felt

"Deep Throat" was the mysterious nickname given to W. Mark Felt, the F.B.I. official who secretly helped reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the Watergate scandal during the presidency of Richard Nixon. Felt's identity was unknown to the public during the scandal and for more than 30 years afterward. Woodward and Bernstein, who broke the Watergate story for The Washington Post, acknowledged only that their informant was a high-ranking official in the executive branch of government. (Because the source insisted on total anonymity and would only talk on "deep background," he was given the nickname "Deep Throat" by Post senior editor Howard Simons, who borrowed the title from an X-rated movie of the era.) In their book All the President's Men, Woodward and Bernstein said that Woodward met with Deep Throat in parking garages and other obscure locations, where the source would answer questions and offer cryptic hints such as his famous advice to "follow the money" to get at the truth. Even after Nixon resigned in shame in 1974, Deep Throat insisted on retaining his anonymity. The reporters honored that request until Felt himself came forward in May of 2005, telling his story to a lawyer and family friend who then wrote up the story for Vanity Fair magazine.

Felt joined the FBI in 1942, spent many years working under agency director J. Edgar Hoover, and at the time of the Watergate break-in was the number two man at the FBI under Hoover's successor L. Patrick Gray. The Washington Post once described Deep Throat's identity as "the best-kept secret in American politics and journalism," as only four men knew the informer's name: Woodward, Bernstein, their editor at the Post, Ben Bradlee, and Deep Throat himself. Over the years, political observers suggested many possible candidates as Deep Throat, including Felt's boss, FBI director L. Patrick Gray, Nixon advisor Alexander Haig, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and even former U.N. ambassador (and later president) George Bush, Sr..

Extra credit:

Mark Felt's full name was William Mark Felt... Deep Throat was played by Hal Holbrook in the movie version of All the President's Men. Woodward and Bernstein were played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, respectively... Two senior Nixon staffers wrote books investigating Deep Throat's identity: Leonard Garment (In Search of Deep Throat, 2001) and John Dean (Unmasking Deep Throat, 2002). Neither man fingered Felt as the leading candidate.

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