A day after the release of his memoir, the man identified as Watergate’s “Deep Throat” defended his role in exposing the scandal that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency 32 years ago.
In his most extensive public comments to date about serving as the secret source for The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, W. Mark Felt dismissed suggestions that he fed information to the reporters because he was angry Nixon hadn’t made him director of the FBI.
“I’m proud of what Deep Throat did. I’m proud to be related to him,” Felt told CNN’s Larry King in a taped interview broadcast Tuesday night. “I’ve tried to go along with whatever I thought was correct and 100 percent accurate.”
At age 92, Felt, the FBI’s former second-in-command, appeared amiable but frail as he fielded questions about his book, “A G-Man’s Life: The FBI, ’Deep Throat’ and the Struggle for Honor in Washington,” from his Santa Rosa, Calif., home.
In the book, Felt similarly dismisses the notion that anger over being bypassed for the FBI’s top job led to his becoming the journalists’ source.
Suffers from dementia
His family has said Felt suffers from age-related dementia, and his condition was noticeable enough that several other Watergate-era figures who appeared on the program with King felt compelled to comment on it.
“He was one tough SOB. He was somebody who really wouldn’t answer a lot of questions,” Woodward said in describing the FBI agent he knew more than three decades ago. “He was in control and now in this phase of his life he is not.”
Benjamin Bradlee, the Post’s former executive editor, said it was difficult to hear how time had dimmed Felt’s memory and vitality.
“As much as I believe Bob he was one tough SOB, he isn’t now,” Bradlee observed. “He’s sort of sad, and I find myself holding my breath and hoping he wouldn’t screw up.”
Felt’s co-author, family friend John O’Connor, acknowledged that Felt doesn’t have detailed memories of the events that made him a pivotal figure in American history and a character in the movie version of “All the President’s Men,” Woodward and Bernstein’s account of the Watergate scandal.
At one point, for instance, King asked Felt whether his late wife knew he was Deep Throat.
“I think she knew, yes,” Felt replied.
“Did you ever tell her?” King asked.
“No, I don’t think I did,” Felt said.
‘I was trying to help’
Despite his occasional confusion, Felt remained steadfast on the question of what prompted him as a veteran FBI man to act as a “Lone Ranger” who revealed inside information to the press. When King asked whether he helped the Post reporters because he wanted a better job at the FBI, Felt said, “That isn’t accurate at all.”
“He didn’t do anything that was wrong. He was in the background trying to help, and that is what I was trying to do. I was trying to help,” Felt said of his alter-ego.
“Somebody had to work on the inside, they had to be honest and they had to be reliable. If I could fit into that category it was fine. That is what I wanted,” Felt said.