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One Last Secret From Gerald Ford?

Looks like Gerald Ford is going to be doing some more talking from the grave.

Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford has one last big secret, it seems. We just have to wait until the fall to find out... (AP File Photo)

This time, we may well find out the secret he told a young Newsweek reporter in 1974 at the height of the Watergate crisis when Ford was vice president and traveling the country constantly for no other apparent reason than to stay away from scandal-plagued Washington.

According to the reporter, Thomas DeFrank, now a grizzled veteran and the Washington bureau chief of the New York Daily News, Ford slipped up and "said something he shouldn't have" during an interview in the spring of 1974, months before Richard Nixon would resign.

They were in Palm Springs, Calif., where Ford went every spring. DeFrank was one of six reporters who traveled just about everywhere with Ford on Air Force Two, dissecting his every word, hoping to solve the crucible of Watergate.

On this particular evening, DeFrank said he walked into a reporter's dream come true: The vice president's press secretary had fallen asleep in the next room, so DeFrank had Ford -- who was a multiple martini man back in those days -- all to himself.

And just as DeFrank had hoped, Ford, relaxed and unencumbered by his flak, blabbed just a little too much.

"He said something he shouldn't have said, and he realized he shouldn't have it," DeFrank tells The Sleuth. And as soon as the vice president let the cat out of the bag, he intimidated the cub reporter, who at the time was 28, into keeping his mouth shut.

"He said, 'You're not leaving here 'til we have an agreement,'" DeFrank recalled. "I couldn't speak, I was scared s***less."

Ford finally said to DeFrank, "Write it when I'm dead."

And that's exactly what DeFrank is doing. He's writing a book that compiles all the interviews he had with Ford over the course of at least 30 years, including the "same time, next year" interviews DeFrank had with the 38th president over the years after Ford left the White House. The book, which is scheduled to be published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in the fall, will include Ford's views on everything from Vietnam and Iraq to Watergate and Nixon.

But perhaps the sexiest nugget of news, according to DeFrank, is that secret Ford told the author during their Palm Springs interview in '74. For now, DeFrank isn't saying any more. We'll just have to wait for the book.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  February 1, 2007; 12:43 PM ET
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