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Context of 'May 6, 1991: Silent Coup Allegations of Prostitution Rings Absolutely False, Dean Concludes'

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Frank Wills, the security guard who discovers the taped doors and alerts the DC police.Frank Wills, the security guard who discovers the taped doors and alerts the DC police. [Source: Bettmann / Corbis]Five burglars (see June 17, 1972) are arrested at 2:30 a.m. while breaking in to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Headquarters offices in Washington’s Watergate hotel and office complex; the DNC occupies the entire sixth floor. [Washington Post, 6/18/1972; Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum, 7/3/2007]
Discovery - They are surprised at gunpoint by three plainclothes officers of the DC Metropolitan Police. Two ceiling panels have been removed from the secretary’s office, which is adjacent to that of DNC chairman Lawrence O’Brien. It is possible to place a surveillance device above those panels that could monitor O’Brien’s office. The five suspects, all wearing surgical gloves, have among them two sophisticated voice-activated surveillance devices that can monitor conversations and telephone calls alike; lock-picks, door jimmies, and an assortment of burglary tools; and $2,300 in cash, most of it in $100 bills in sequence. They also have a walkie-talkie, a shortwave receiver tuned to the police band, 40 rolls of unexposed film, two 35mm cameras, and three pen-sized tear gas guns. Near to where the men are captured is a file cabinet with two open drawers; a DNC source speculates that the men might have been preparing to photograph the contents of the file drawers.
Guard Noticed Taped Door - The arrests take place after a Watergate security guard, Frank Wills, notices a door connecting a stairwell with the hotel’s basement garage has been taped so it will not lock; the guard removes the tape, but when he checks ten minutes later and finds the lock taped once again, the guard calls the police. The police find that all of the stairwell doors leading from the basement to the sixth floor have been similarly taped to prevent them from locking. The door leading from the stairwell to the DNC offices had been jimmied. During a search of the offices, one of the burglars leaps from behind a desk and surrenders. [Washington Post, 6/18/1972] The FBI agents responding to the burglary are initially told that the burglars may have been attempting to plant a bomb in the offices. The “bomb” turns out to be surveillance equipment. [O.T. Jacobson, 7/5/1974 pdf file]
Last Mission for Martinez - One of the burglars, Cuban emigre and CIA agent Eugenio Martinez, will recall the burglary. They have already successfully burglarized a psychiatrist’s office in search of incriminating material on Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg (see September 9, 1971), and successfully bugged the DNC offices less than a month previously (see May 27-28, 1972), but Martinez is increasingly ill at ease over the poor planning and amateurish behavior of his colleagues (see Mid-June 1972). This will be his last operation, he has decided. Team leader E. Howard Hunt, whom Martinez calls by his old code name “Eduardo,” is obviously intrigued by the material secured from the previous burglary, and wants to go through the offices a second time to find more. Martinez is dismayed to find that Hunt has two operations planned for the evening, one for the DNC and one for the campaign offices of Democratic candidate George McGovern. Former CIA agent and current Nixon campaign security official James McCord (see June 19, 1972), the electronics expert of the team, is equally uncomfortable with the rushed, almost impromptu plan. Hunt takes all of the burglars’ identification and puts it in a briefcase. He gives another burglar, Frank Sturgis, his phony “Edward J. Hamilton” ID from his CIA days, and gives each burglar $200 in cash to bribe their way out of trouble. Interestingly, Hunt tells the burglars to keep the keys to their hotel rooms. Martinez later writes: “I don’t know why. Even today, I don’t know. Remember, I was told in advance not to ask about those things.”
Taping the Doors - McCord goes into the Watergage office complex, signs in, and begins taping the doors to the stairwells from the eighth floor all the way to the garage. After waiting for everyone to leave the offices, the team prepares to enter. Gonzalez and Sturgis note that the tape to the basement garage has been removed. Martinez believes the operation will be aborted, but McCord disagrees; he convinces Hunt and the other team leader, White House aide G. Gordon Liddy, to continue. It is McCord’s responsibility to remove the tape once the burglars are inside, but he fails to do so. The team is well into the DNC offices when the police burst in. “There was no way out,” Martinez will recall. “We were caught.” Barker is able to surreptitiously advise Hunt, who is still in the hotel, that they have been discovered. Martinez will later wonder if the entire second burglary might have been “a set-up or something like that because it was so easy the first time. We all had that feeling.” The police quickly find the burglars’ hotel keys and then the briefcase containing their identification. As they are being arrested, McCord, who rarely speaks and then not above a whisper, takes charge of the situation. He orders everyone to keep their mouths shut. “Don’t give your names,” he warns. “Nothing. I know people. Don’t worry, someone will come and everything will be all right. This thing will be solved.” [Harper's, 10/1974; Spartacus Schoolnet, 8/7/2007]
'Third-Rate Burglary' - White House press secretary Ron Ziegler will respond to allegations that the White House and the Nixon presidential campaign might have been involved in the Watergate burglary by calling it a “third-rate burglary attempt,” and warning that “certain elements may try to stretch this beyond what it is.” [Washington Post, 5/1/1973] The Washington Post chooses, for the moment, to cover it as a local burglary and nothing more; managing editor Howard Simons says that it could be nothing more than a crime committed by “crazy Cubans.” [Bernstein and Woodward, 1974, pp. 19]
CIA Operation? - In the weeks and months to come, speculation will arise as to the role of the CIA in the burglary. The Nixon White House will attempt to pin the blame for the Watergate conspiracy on the CIA, an attempt forestalled by McCord (see March 19-23, 1973). In a 1974 book on his involvement in the conspiracy, McCord will write: “The Watergate operation was not a CIA operation. The Cubans may have been misled by others into believing that it was a CIA operation. I know for a fact that it was not.” Another author, Carl Oglesby, will claim otherwise, saying that the burglary is a CIA plot against Nixon. Former CIA officer Miles Copeland will claim that McCord led the burglars into a trap. Journalist Andrew St. George will claim that CIA Director Richard Helms knew of the break-in before it occurred, a viewpoint supported by Martha Mitchell, the wife of Nixon campaign director John Mitchell, who will tell St. George that McCord is a “double agent” whose deliberate blunders led to the arrest of the burglars. No solid evidence of CIA involvement in the Watergate conspiracy has so far been revealed. [Spartacus Schoolnet, 8/2007]

Entity Tags: Nixon administration, Howard Simons, Lawrence O’Brien, James McCord, Martha Mitchell, Richard M. Nixon, Richard Helms, Washington Post, Ron Ziegler, George S. McGovern, Miles Copeland, G. Gordon Liddy, John Mitchell, Frank Sturgis, Carl Oglesby, Bob Woodward, Andrew St. George, Central Intelligence Agency, Carl Bernstein, Democratic National Committee, Daniel Ellsberg, E. Howard Hunt, Eugenio Martinez, Frank Wills

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate, Elections Before 2000

Former White House counsel John Dean, shocked by allegations that he was behind the Watergate burglary in an attempt to prove that Democrats were involved in a prostitution ring (see May 6, 1991), calls Hays Gorey, a reporter with Time magazine who co-authored a book with Dean’s wife Maureen about her experiences during Watergate. Gorey is shocked that Time is considering running an article on the allegations without conferring with him, as Gorey had anchored much of Time’s Watergate coverage at the time. Both he and Dean are stunned to see that Maureen Dean is accused of being connected to the so-called prostitution ring; Gorey calls the allegations complete fantasy. Gorey learns that Time has secured the rights to print portions of the not-yet-published book making the allegations, Silent Coup. Dean later writes that his wife finds the allegations “laughable,” and is completely certain that her former roommate, Heidi Rikan, never ran any prostitution ring, as the book alleges. She has no knowledge of an attorney named Philip Macklin Bailey, whom, the book’s authors claim, was connected to the supposed prostitution ring, and had her name as well as Dean’s in his address book. By the end of the day, the producers of CBS’s 60 Minutes have decided not to air a segment on the book, as neither the authors nor the book’s publisher can provide any proof of their allegations. Bailey is “unavailable” and the authors either cannot or will not provide any documentation to back up their claims. Time, however, still intends to publish an excerpt from the book and a review. Time’s editors ask Gorey to interview Dean for a sidebar article; by this point, Gorey has talked to numerous members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from 1972, and they all say that the allegation of the DNC either operating or patronizing a prostitution ring is absolute fiction. (One former DNC official tells Gorey that had the committee patronized such a ring, he would have been a regular customer.) Gorey loans Dean his advance copy of the book, and after skimming over it, Dean, writing in 2006, concludes that the book is “filled with false or misleading information. All the hard evidence (the information developed by government investigators and prosecutors) that conflicted with this invented story was simply omitted.” Dean and Gorey both wonder why St. Martin’s Press and Time believe they can publish such outlandish accusations without facing lawsuits. [Dean, 2006, pp. xvii-xviii]

Entity Tags: Heidi Rikan, CBS News, Democratic National Committee, Hays Gorey, Maureen Dean, St. Martin’s Press, Time magazine, John Dean, Philip Macklin Bailey

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate

Former White House counsel John Dean tells Time reporter Hays Gorey that he plans on suing the authors and the publishers of the book Silent Coup, which alleges that Dean planned the Watergate burglary (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972) to prove that Democrats were operating a prostitution ring, and that Dean’s wife Maureen had inside knowledge of the prostitution ring (see May 6, 1991). Dean’s position is simple: the book is a farrago of lies and misinformation, and the accusations are libelous (see May 6, 1991). Dean also speaks with Time publisher Henry Muller, and Muller agrees to halt his magazine’s planned publication of an excerpt from the book. Gorey is amazed: Time has already paid $50,000 for the rights to publish portions of the book. “You did it,” Gorey tells Dean. “Muller pulled the story. The whole thing. We’re not going to even mention Silent Coup. I have only seen that happen once before in my thirty years with Time.” Dean later writes, “[Gorey] was ebullient, clearly proud that Time had done the right thing.” The book’s publisher, St. Martin’s Press, refuses to suspend publication. [Dean, 2006, pp. xviii-xix]

Entity Tags: St. Martin’s Press, Time magazine, John Dean, Hays Gorey, Henry Muller, Maureen Dean

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate

The authors of the upcoming book Silent Coup, Leonard Colodny and Robert Gettlin, are interviewed on CBS’s Good Morning America. The book alleges that former White House counsel John Dean masterminded the Watergate burglary (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972) to prove that Democrats were operating a prostitution ring, and that Dean’s wife Maureen had inside knowledge of the prostitution ring (see May 6, 1991). Dean has already convinced CBS’s flagship news program, 60 Minutes, not to air a segment on the book, and convinced Time magazine not to excerpt the book in its upcoming issue (see May 7, 1991). Dean says the book is false to the point of libel (see May 6, 1991). Dean has informed the Good Morning America producers of his intention to sue both the authors and the publisher of the book. Reflecting on the affair in his 2006 book Conservatives Without Conscience, Dean writes: “[W]e had mortally wounded the book and destroyed the carefully planned launch, which might had given the story credibility. Now it would be difficult to treat Silent Coup as legitimate news.” Dean recalls being less than impressed with the authors as they discuss their book with Good Morning America’s anchor, Charles Gibson. Colodny, whom Dean will describe as “a retired liquor salesman and conspiracy buff,” and Gettlin, “a journalist,” appear “tense.” Gibson does not believe their story, Dean observes. Gibson skims past the material concerning Dean and his wife, and focuses on the equally specious allegations about Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward (supposedly a CIA agent) and then-White House chief of staff Alexander Haig (who supposedly planned the “coup” of the title that forced Richard Nixon out of office). [Dean, 2006, pp. xix-xx]

Entity Tags: CBS News, Robert Gettlin, Bob Woodward, Richard M. Nixon, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Charles Gibson, Maureen Dean, Leonard Colodny, John Dean

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate

Former White House counsel John Dean helps destroy the credibility of the sensationalistic new book Silent Coup, which alleges that Dean masterminded the Watergate burglary (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972), that his wife was involved in a Democratic Party-operated prostitution ring (see May 6, 1991), that Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, one of the reporters instrumental in exposing the Watergate conspiracy, was a CIA plant, and former White House chief of staff Alexander Haig orchestrated the “silent coup” that removed Richard Nixon from office (see May 8, 1991). Dean learns that convicted Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy (see January 30, 1973) worked behind the scenes with the book’s authors, Leonard Colodny and Robert Gettlin, on developing, sourcing, and writing the book. Although Dean has played a key role in destroying the book’s credibility, the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, intends on publishing the book anyway, now marketing it to what Dean will later call “Nixon apologists and right-wingers, giving them a new history of Nixon’s downfall in which Bob Woodward, Al Haig, and John Dean were the villains, and randy Democrats had all but invited surveillance. Who better to peddle this tale than uber-conservative Gordon Liddy?” Preparing for an onslaught of negative publicity and legal actions, St. Martin’s Press doubles its defamation insurance and reissues Liddy’s Watergate biography, Will, with a new postscript that endorses Silent Coup. Dean notes that for years, Liddy has attempted to restore Nixon’s tarnished reputation at the expense of others, particularly Dean and Liddy’s fellow burglar, E. Howard Hunt. The book comes at a perfect time for Liddy, Dean will later note: “Since the first publication of Will in 1980 he had made a living by putting his dysfunctional personality on display. By the early nineties speaking engagements were becoming less frequent for him, and his business ventures, including several novels, were unsuccessful. Silent Coup put him back in the spotlight, where he loved to be—publicly misbehaving.” Dean is disturbed when another convicted Watergate figure, former White House counsel Charles Colson, joins Liddy in backing the book. Dean believed that he and Colson had forged a friendship during their incarceration in federal prison (see September 3, 1974), and questions Colson’s integrity and his public reinvention as a Christian minister because of Colson’s endorsement. [Dean, 2006, pp. xx-xxii]

Entity Tags: St. Martin’s Press, Leonard Colodny, Robert Gettlin, G. Gordon Liddy, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Bob Woodward, John Dean, Charles Colson

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate

The cover of <i>Silent Coup.</i>The cover of Silent Coup. [Source: Amazon (.com)]Silent Coup, an alternate theory of the Watergate conspiracy by Leonard Colodny and Robert Gettlin (see May 6, 1991), is published. It quickly makes the New York Times bestseller list. [Dean, 2006, pp. xxiv] The same day it is published, the Washington Post runs an article by media reporter Howard Kurtz that thoroughly discredits the book. Kurtz notes that both CBS and Time magazine chose not to feature the book because the authors refused to provide any proof of their allegations (see May 7, 1991); two of the authors’ primary sources of information, former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Thomas Moorer and former Pentagon spokesman Jerry Friedheim, both disavow statements they are said to have made; and the primary Watergate figures, Post reporter Bob Woodward, former White House aide Alexander Haig, and former White House counsel John Dean, harshly repudiate the book’s contentions. [Columbia Journalism Review, 11/1991]

Entity Tags: Thomas Moorer, Robert Gettlin, Time magazine, Leonard Colodny, John Dean, Jerry Friedheim, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., CBS News, Howard Kurtz, Bob Woodward

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate

Washington Post reviewer and history professor William L. O’Neill lambasts the Watergate book Silent Coup (see May 6, 1991). O’Neill writes: “Woodward and Bernstein’s All the President’s Men (see June 15, 1974) is represented as a tissue of lies, except when something in it can be made to support Silent Coup’s theories, at which point it becomes an important source.… Most of the ‘new’ material is based upon interviews during which informants seized every opportunity to make themselves look good while contradicting their own past statements, each other, and the known facts. When all else fails the authors fall back upon supposition, innuendo, and guesswork. Their documentation is pathetic.” [Columbia Journalism Review, 11/1991]

Entity Tags: William L. O’Neill

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate

To promote the book Silent Coup (see May 6, 1991 and May 9, 1991 and After), convicted Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy “calls out” fellow Watergate defendant John Dean on a Cleveland radio show. Liddy dares Dean, the former White House counsel, to file a lawsuit against the book, as Dean has threatened (see May 7, 1991). On the air, Liddy leaves a message on Dean’s home answering machine, saying: “You have promised to sue me and Len Colodny and Bob Gettlin [the authors of the book]. Let’s get this suit started, John. We want to get you on the stand, under oath, yet again (see June 25-29, 1973).… Come on, John, I’m publicly challenging you to make good on your promise to sue.” On the same message, radio host Merle Pollis makes a veiled sexual innuendo about Dean’s wife Maureen, who according to the book, was involved in a prostitution ring: “[T]his new book, however, reveals some things about Maureen that irk me. I didn’t want to think of her in that way, and it makes me very sad, and it also makes me feel, well, never mind.” Before Liddy goes off the air, he gives out Dean’s home phone number to Pollis’s radio audience, resulting in a storm of phone calls that drive Dean to disconnect the phone. Maureen Dean screams aloud when she plays back the message and hears Liddy’s voice. The Deans decide that they will indeed sue Liddy, the authors, and the publisher of the book, “but,” Dean will later write, “on our terms, not theirs.” Dean refuses to respond to Liddy’s baiting, and instead will “spend the next eight months collecting evidence and preparing the case.” [Dean, 2006, pp. xxiv-xxv]

Entity Tags: Merle Pollis, Robert Gettlin, Leonard Colodny, G. Gordon Liddy, John Dean, Maureen Dean

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate

The Columbia Journalism Review gives a decidedly mixed review to the recently published book, Silent Coup, by Leonard Colodny and Robert Gettlin (see May 6, 1991). Reviewer Steve Weinberg notes that the book “mixes superb and shoddy research, sound reasoning with logical inconsistencies, clear writing with incomprehensible passages.” The book lacks verifiable sourcing. Thus, Weinberg notes, the book “cannot be dismissed out of hand, but it cannot stand on its own.” Weinberg details the competing claims for the book:
bullet Some Watergate figures, most notably convicted burglar G. Gordon Liddy, support the book. (Weinberg observes that the book contradicts many of the claims advanced in Liddy’s Watergate biography, Will. Weinberg is apparently unaware that Liddy secretly co-authored the book—see May 9, 1991 and After.) In contrast, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, cited as a shady intelligence asset in the book, calls it “untrue and pathetic.” Woodward’s partner in the Watergate investigations, Carl Bernstein, dismisses the book as a “lunatic” piece of work. Former White House chief of staff Alexander Haig, accused in the book of fomenting the coup that forced Richard Nixon out of the presidency, calls the book “a scandalous fabrication.” Former White House counsel John Dean, named the “mastermind” of the Watergate conspiracy, calls the book “absolute garbage” (see May 6, 1991).
bullet The book was discredited by the Washington Post the day it was published (see May 1991) and again five weeks later (see June 1991). Eminent historian Stephen Ambrose dismissed the book out of hand in a New York Times review. But other, equally reputable reviewers and media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times and the more ideologically conservative National Review praised the book. [Columbia Journalism Review, 11/1991] The Post called it one of “the most boring conspiracy books ever written” despite its “wild charges and vilifications,” and the Times observed the book showed “a stunning ignorance of how the government under Mr. Nixon operated.” Samuel Dash, the chief counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee, called the book “a fraud… contradicted by everything on the White House tapes and by the evidence.” [Washington Post, 7/23/1997]

Entity Tags: Stephen Ambrose, Senate Watergate Investigative Committee, Steve Weinberg, Samuel Dash, Robert Gettlin, Columbia Journalism Review, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Carl Bernstein, Leonard Colodny, G. Gordon Liddy, John Dean, Bob Woodward

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate

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