When Woodward Met 'Deep Throat'
It all started with an impromptu meeting at the White House -- the relationship between W. Mark Felt, the FBI official who became the mysterious "Deep Throat," and Bob Woodward, The Washington Post reporter who helped break the story, eventually leading to former President Richard M. Nixon's resignation.
This past November, Felt met with Woodward and his Watergate reporting partner Carl Bernstein at Felt's home in Santa Rosa, Calif. It would prove to be their last meeting. Felt, in ailing health for several years, died yesterday at age 95.
Here's a look at their first meeting, courtesy of Woodward's book on Felt, "The Secret Man:"
One evening, sometime in late 1969 or early 1970, Woodward was sent to the lower level of the West Wing of the White House, where there was a waiting area near the Situation Room.
Woodward was working as a courier to Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, the chief of naval operations. He was likely wearing his dress-blue Navy uniform and was either 26 or had just turned 27. His hair was close cropped.
Felt was described as a tall man with "perfectly combed gray hair." He wore a dark suit, a white shirt and a "subdued" necktie.
"He was distinguished-looking and had a studied air of confidence, even what might be called a command presence, the posture and calm of someone used to giving orders and having them obeyed instantly and without question," Woodward wrote. "He had an air of patience and comfort about him. I could tell he was observing the situation carefully."
Woodward introduced himself as "Lt. Bob Woodward" adding a "sir" at the end.
Woodward likened the ensuing exchange to "two passengers sitting next to each other on a long airline flight with nowhere to go and nothing really to do but resign ourselves to the dead time." Felt didn't appear particularly interested in a long conversation with Woodward but the young Navy lieutenant was "intent on it." Felt was friendly, which Woodward interpreted as the FBI man acting somewhat paternal.
The pair, separated by 25 or 30 years in age, shared two things in common: Both had taken classes at The George Washington University (Woodward, a Yale grad, had been taking some graduate courses) and both had worked for their home-state lawmakers in Washington.
"As I think back on this accidental but crucial encounter -- one of the most important in my life -- I see that my patter verged on the adolescent," Woodward wrote. "But Felt had no choice. I turned it into a career counseling session. Since he wasn't saying much about himself, I became a parody of the cliche -- enough about me, what do you think of me? What should I do? I recall that Felt said he had a daughter my age who had gone to Stanford."
He left with a number to Felt's direct line at the FBI.
Felt's daughter, Joan Felt, later told Vanity Fair that years later, as Felt's health deterioated, he still "remembered Bob whenever he called.... I said, 'Bob, it's unusual for Dad to remember someone as clearly as you.'" She said that Woodward responded, "He has good reason to remember me."
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