When Bob Woodward learned that Richard Nixon had been pardoned, the reporter whose investigation led to the president’s resignation believed the pardon was improper, “the final corruption of Watergate.”
A quarter of a century later, Woodward learned the truth: In pardoning his predecessor, Gerald Ford wasn’t making good on a shady deal that would give him the presidency, but saving the scandal-weary country from a protracted investigation, at personal cost.
“What Ford did was gutsy and not corrupt,” Woodward said Monday evening at an event sponsored by the Deseret News, “Integrity & Trust: Lessons from Watergate and Today.”
The realization also taught Woodward a lesson: the importance of not rushing to judgment.
“How humbling. How humiliating,” he said. “Because, quite frankly, I would have staked my life in 1974 that this (pardon) was corrupt, and you look at it 25 years later through the lens of history, and it’s the opposite. It’s courage."
Speaking to about 450 people in the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue, Woodward was joined by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, brought together by the Deseret News for their connection to Watergate, and Michael Dimock, president of Pew Research Center. All three have a conviction to their principles exemplifying integrity and trust.
Elder Christofferson, as a clerk for the late John J. Sirica, was among the first to hear the recordings that revealed Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate break-in and cover-up.
Elder Christofferson remembered the day he first heard the recordings along with Sirica, the U.S. district judge who presided over the trials. It was, he recalled, a somber moment dark with disbelief, he said, "a blow to the gut."
Story by Jennifer Graham, Deseret News. Lead image by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.