What a colossal letdown! I feel like I did when I was 7 and my older brother, anxious to share his newfound discovery, revealed that Mom and Dad were Santa Claus (and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy).
The Washington Post, which I read daily, has been scooped by a San Francisco attorney who happened to take Deep Throat’s grandson under wing and has now broken the news of his identity in this Vanity Fair article.
It was a lot more interesting not knowing Deep Throat’s identity. The magician's trick has been revealed. Now we know it was the No. 2 guy at the FBI: W. Mark Felt, age 91 and currently of Santa Rosa, Calif. Somebody let the air out of my journalistic balloon.
The cynic in me is already questioning the motives for the timing of the revelation. I’m a little suspect of his daughter, Joan, who clearly sees financial opportunity. Isn't a little fishy that since she's known the truth about her father's involvement she's been pushing him to come forward? (Maybe it’s just me but she bares a striking resemblance to Jane Fonda.)
Maybe this kindly old man, who looks as if he could be anyone's grandpa, doesn't fit MY expectation of Deep Throat. Try as I might, I’ve been unsuccessful in superimposing Mark Felt’s face over Hal Holbrook, who played Deep Throat in the movie version of “All the President’s Men.”
But there he is nonetheless, up there in years and maybe a little relieved to have finally shared his secret with the world. What is interesting is how Bob Woodward so carefully protected him and still wanted to ensure that the promise he made three decades ago was kept. Does anyone do that anymore? His actions smack of integrity to me. He continued to ask if Felt was in possession of faculties enough to make the decision to reveal his identity.
I’m sure Bob is not happy about John D. O’Connor’s article in Vanity Fair. I’m sure he — and Carl and Ben — wanted to be the ones to reveal his identity. But this is America where first one to the finish line wins.
O’Connor’s article is a pedestrian account of the events in Felt’s life that only touches on the inner turmoil this man endured following his decision to reveal what he knew about Watergate. Near the end he writes: “But Watergate invigorated an independent press, virtually spawning a generation of investigative journalists.”
I became a journalist because of Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Ben Bradlee and, yes Deep Throat. I became a journalist because I wanted to change the world. To speak truth to power, to speak for those without a voice and to engage readers into thinking they could also change the world.
At the end of my senior year in high school and only a decade after Nixon resigned, I sat riveted to the television in Mr. King’s overheated honor’s government classroom while most of my classmates nodded off. We were watching “All the President’s Men” and watching that I knew with absolute clarity that being a journalist was my calling.
What Felt did took an amazing amount of courage and patriotism. How fortunate our press was able to protect him for so long. I’m not hopeful, given the current political climate that will continue. So much has changed. Many mysteries are no longer and people can't wait to share a secret.
Hell today, as Jeff Jarvis writes, Deep Throat would be a blogger.