“They sent the new kid”: Lesley Stahl on how she got to cover Watergate — and how Washington “changed forever”


In 1972, lengthy before she turned a correspondent for 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl was a young reporter at CBS News. Above the last 50 decades, she has interviewed every president given that Nixon and coated plenty of political stories. In this article, in her very own text, she recounts and displays on just one of her to start with: the Watergate scandal. 

Hear extra from Stahl in “Watergate: High Crimes in the White Household,” premiering Friday, June 17 at 9 p.m. ET on CBS. It will also be out there to stream on the CBS News application and Paramount+.

Photos of Lesley Stahl and Richard Nixon
Lesley Stahl, seen at still left reporting for CBS News in 1973, lined the Watergate scandal, which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

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Arraignment of the Watergate burglars

Ron Ziegler, the push secretary in the White Property, explained it was a third-fee burglary and all people imagined that. And to be truthful, that is why I bought to address the tale: I was the new employ the service of and it was … thought to be so insignificant that they sent the new child.

But the purpose that CBS did deliver a reporter was mainly because it was a crack-in of the Democratic Bash.

I went off to deal with the arraignment of the five burglars who had been caught at Watergate. So I was in the courtroom. There ended up two other reporters. That is how vital and significant the environment of journalism thought that preliminary break-in was.

Nixon and the push 

The romantic relationship involving the push and the president improved radically mainly because of Watergate. 

Absolutely nothing was unreportable from that investigation and then ahead, it transformed eternally, I consider, the way the push treats the presidency. Right after Watergate, almost everything was on the table. They might not be telling you the reality mainly because they failed to so a lot in Watergate. So we grew to become skeptical of each individual term that came out of the White House. Everything started to be questioned, which include character, which includes the temperament. We preferred to know what was in the president’s intellect.

Revelation all through Watergate hearings of the key White Property tapes

As it was unfolding right before our eyes, as reporters — ahead of the public, I imply — there had been just nothing but gasps and disbelief. There had been listening gadgets in the Oval Office. I don’t forget remaining so stunned I had to have any person say it once again. You knew in your head it was a activity changer. You know that all those tapes were being both likely to guidance the president’s denials or they were likely to direct to the conclusion of his presidency. You understood it. If he is telling the truth of the matter, we are going to know.  If he is lying, we are going to know no matter if he was concerned in the protect up.

He reported he was not a criminal, but that was the point. He was a criminal. And as we go forward, every single revelation was a jolt. It was as however we retained stepping on landmines, you know, and they ended up exploding in our faces. 

If the tapes had by no means come out, he’d have survived, no concern. The irony that Watergate was about bugging the Democratic Social gathering — the president’s undone simply because he’s bugged himself.

There was normally a feeling of mystery. Why? Why would the White Dwelling do this? We couldn’t figure it out for a prolonged time. And you know anything? We have not truly fully figured it out yet. 

Lesley Stahl On Election Night 1974
Broadcast journalist Lesley Stahl can make some notes whilst she sits in the newsroom for the duration of protection of the 1974 presidential election, November 5, 1974.

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Echoes of Watergate nowadays

If you vote for someone, you’re invested … you just have an intuition to forgive them. Maybe it really is like a person in your relatives.

I consider that these moments in American historical past are variety of cyclical, that we have terrible scandals. We have instances when we shed faith in the leaders. And it will come in waves. 

We’re living by way of a ton of turmoil appropriate now in our region. And I generally think back to the early seventies and imagine, is it actually even worse? 

Watergate occurred 50 years in the past, and you want to say, perfectly, who cares about it now? But it can be one particular of the good, massive, damaging points that’s occurred to our nation and our background.


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