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If you like Bob Woodward's story, you might also like:
Tom Clancy,
Sam Donaldson,
David Halberstam,
Nicholas Kristof,
Charles Kuralt,
Colin Powell,
Dan Rather,
Neil Sheehan
and Mike Wallace

Bob Woodward can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Bob Woodward's recommended reading: All the King's Men

Bob Woodward also appears in the videos:
A Leader of Character

Media and Social Responsibility

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Bob Woodward
 
Bob Woodward
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Bob Woodward Interview

Investigative Reporter

May 1, 2003
Washington, D.C.

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  Bob Woodward

(The Academy of Achievement interviewed both Bob Woodward and Ben Bradlee, the longtime Executive Editor of the Washington Post, on May 1, 2003. The interviews are combined here.)

Mr. Woodward, can you tell us about the night you first got that phone call about a break-in at the Watergate?


Bob Woodward: June 17th, 1972. I had worked for The Post for nine months. They had this -- it looked like a local burglary at the Democratic Headquarters, a police story. I covered the night police beat. It was a Saturday morning, I think the summer. Editors looked around and thought, "Who could we call in? Who would be dumb enough to work on this story on a Saturday morning?" And they thought of me immediately. So I went to work with about seven or eight other people, including Carl (Bernstein), and I went to the arraignment of the five burglars, and the judge wanted to know where one of them worked, and he was mumbling. He wouldn't say. Kind of going, "CIA." And the judge said, "Where?" And he went, "CIA." And the judge said, "Speak up. Where do you work? Where did you work?" And he went, "CIA, Central Intelligence Agency." And I know my reaction was one of. "Oh! This is not your average burglary."

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Why did they think of you? You mentioned that you had been at The Post for nine months. How long had you been at the previous paper?

Bob Woodward Interview Photo
Bob Woodward: One year exactly. So I did not have two years' experience. I was the lowest-paid reporter at The Washington Post, because they would only give you credit with the Newspaper Guild if you had worked for a daily, and I had worked for a weekly.

What an incredible jump in your fortunes as a journalist, from one year on a little suburban paper to The Washington Post. How did you do that?

Bob Woodward: I was not married at the time and loved being free to do something. I worked quite hard, did a number of stories that the Post and The New York Times picked up. The Post is a very competitive institution, and I think that was the main reason.

How old were you at the time of that break-in?

Bob Woodward: Twenty-nine.

Mr. Bradlee, when did it become clear to you that the Watergate break-in was something more than a simple burglary?

Ben Bradlee: Probably the first or second day, really. It was strange. You had a lot of Cuban or Spanish-speaking guys in masks and rubber gloves, with walkie-talkies, arrested in the Democratic National Committee Headquarters at 2:00 in the morning. What the hell were they in there for? What were they doing?


The follow-up story was based primarily on their arraignment in court, and it was based on information given our police reporter, Al Lewis, by the cops, showing them an address book that one of the burglars had in his pocket, and in the address book was the name "Hunt," H-u-n-t, and the phone number was the White House phone number, which Al Lewis and every reporter worth his salt knew. And when, the next day, Woodward -- this is probably Sunday or maybe Monday, because the burglary was Saturday morning early -- called the number and asked to speak to Mr. Hunt, and the operator said, "Well, he's not here now; he's over at," such-and-such a place, gave him another number, and Woodward called him up, and Hunt answered the phone, and Woodward said, "We want to know why your name was in the address book of the Watergate burglars." And there is this long, deathly hush, and Hunt said, "Oh my God!" and hung up. So you had the White House. You have Hunt saying "Oh my God!" At a later arraignment, one of the guys whispered to a judge. The judge said, "What do you do?" and Woodward overheard the words "CIA." So if your interest isn't whetted by this time, you're not a journalist.


What a story.

Ben Bradlee: It's a good story. Not bad, as they say, and what legs! You have kids who weren't born at that time doing term papers on it at colleges and high schools.

Mr. Woodward, once you heard one of the burglars say he worked for the CIA, where did you take it from there?


Bob Woodward: Is the CIA connected to this? Well, it turns out a lot of CIA people were, and they tried to use the CIA to cover up the FBI investigation, but they never pinned it on the CIA. It was a White House operation. So you would not go from the CIA to the White House instantly, but within several days, through the work of another reporter, we learned there was this cryptic entry in the address books of two of the five burglars that very simply said "H. Hunt - W. House." So I called the White House and asked for Mr. Hunt, and he came on, and I said, "Why is your name in the address books of these two burglars who were caught in the Democratic Headquarters?" And he screamed out, "Good God!" and hung up the phone. And there was a sort of, as I have said, "I am packing my bags" quality to his voice that didn't tell you everything you needed to know but certainly got you focused on, you know, this is interesting now. And it turned out he had worked for the CIA for years, had been working in the White House as a consultant to Chuck Colson, who was then Nixon's hatchet man.


So this was over a period of days, I take it, that it got interesting.

Bob Woodward: Yes, and each week it got more and more interesting. As a colleague of ours at The Post, Bill Greider, wrote the day they disclosed the secret taping system in the White House. I think the lead of his story was, "Will the wonders of Watergate never cease?"

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