NEWS

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April 16, 2004

Researcher investigates Deep Throat's identity

William Gaines spoke Thursday about his work in revealing the identity of Deep Throat, the anonymous source who led the press to the web of corruption at the heart of the Watergate scandal, which tore down the Nixon administration.

What began as an undergraduate project for a class on investigative journalism has gained national attention as Gaines and his students sought to resolve one of the most tantalizing mysteries in the modern political history of the United States.

Gaines, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and former investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, began the lecture with a joke revealing the investigation's semi-serious flavor: "I'd always hoped that Bob Dole would turn out to be Deep Throat," Gaines said, eliminating from the list other prominent suspects like Henry Kissinger, John Dean, and Pat Buchanan.

"The disappearance of Amelia Earheart was a real mystery. The identity of Deep Throat was not. Someone knew who Deep Throat was, and wasn't telling," Gaines said.

Gaines's first class of eight students began working under the assumption that anyone in the world may have been Deep Throat, but soon decided the individual must have been a White House insider who lived in Washington. The project continued as a grand process of elimination, in which students flipped through thousands of pages of primary source documents and made countless phone calls to narrow the suspect list from 70 to seven.

While much of the work was done in class, the investigation became a virtual "extracurricular activity" for the students. Gaines noted that he did very little of the work. After four years of research, Gaines and the students came to conclude that Deep Throat must be Fred Fielding, the former counsel to Nixon.

The findings of Gaines and his students have placed him in opposition to the journalists with whom Deep Throat collaborated in the 1970s, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Woodward has vowed that as long as Deep Throat lives, he will not reveal his identity. The book All the President's Men, which Woodward and Bernstein wrote and which later became a screenplay, included a character portrayal of Deep Throat.

While Woodward and Bernstein have expressed their anger at the attempts of Gaines and his students to unmask their source, Gaines counters that he is not uncovering anything that is not available to the public. "If you have an anonymous source, you don't make a movie about that character," said Gaines, who argues that Woodward and Bernstein have made an industry out of Deep Throat.

Fred Fielding, a current member of the 9/11 commission, a successful lawyer and well-known Republican in Washington, has denied the accusation that he is Deep Throat. Gaines believes that although Fielding supported Nixon, he may have been motivated by a desire to punish the president's corrupt and incompetent aides, viewing the scandal as an embarrassment to the administration. Fielding, Gaines suggests, would not want to upset many of his Republican clients in Washington by revealing the role he allegedly played in the Watergate scandal.

While the Deep Throat case may currently be closed, Gaines has seen enrollment in his class double. The next project is focused on collecting information surrounding the death of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972, which occurred right before the Watergate scandal broke.

The University of Chicago Democrats sponsored the lecture with funding from the Student Government Finance Committee. University of Chicago Democrats Vice President Kristin Greer Love, who organized the event, said, "I believe that the event provides an opportunity for members of our University community to engage in an important dialogue about the historic and current functions of investigative journalism in the political sphere."