Alexander Butterfield and Egil Krogh Among Insiders Remembering Watergate During March 28 Panel Discussion

Issue Date: 
March 25, 2013

Watergate is a powerful word in the American argot. It describes a building, a crime, a cover-up, legal proceedings, congressional investigations, Capitol Hill votes, a journalistic enterprise, White House action, law-enforcement techniques, surveillance methods, and a way of looking at the world.

The political scandal began as a break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate apartment and office complex in June 1972. But once the burglary, which at first seemed like a simple police story, fell into the hands of two enterprising Washington Post reporters, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the plot started to unfold. The break-in led to a press investigation, which led to a cover-up, which led to more investigations, which led to prosecutions, congressional hearings—and one of the gravest constitutional crises of the 20th century. By August 1974, Richard Nixon had resigned from the highest office in the land.

To commemorate the in-depth journalistic investigation of Watergate, the University of Pittsburgh’s Honors College will host a panel discussion, including five figures involved with Watergate, at 7:30 p.m. March 28 in Pitt’s University Club. The free event is fully booked.

“Watergate: Third-Rate Burglary or Historical Turning Point?”
will be moderated by David Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The panelists will be:

Alexander Butterfield, deputy assistant to President Nixon, who told Capitol Hill investigators that the president had been taping conversations, a revelation that changed the trajectory of the Watergate affair;

Egil “Bud” Krogh Jr., head of the Plumbers—a White House group assigned to the task of ending leaks—who eventually served a prison term; 

Bob Meyers, former Washington Post correspondent who helped investigate the Watergate affair;

Tim Naftali, former director of the Richard M. Nixon Library and Museum who was tasked with producing a fair-minded representation of the Watergate scandal; and 

Jill Wine-Banks, the prosecutor assigned to cross-examine Richard Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, producing one of the most colorful and mysterious aspects of Watergate, the 18 ½-minute gap in the White House recordings.

“The beauty of the panel on March 28 is that each panelist played a direct role in Watergate or the aftermath. These are the people who lived it, so we are very excited to have them on campus and hope students, faculty, and the community will take advantage of reliving a bit of this important part of American history,” said event organizer Cynthia Skrzycki, senior lecturer in Pitt’s Department of English. 

“The idea for the panel grew out of a section of a course I teach in the University Honors College called Great Modern Journalists: First Drafters of History,” she added. “Since 2012 was the 40th anniversary of Watergate and many students have only a passing idea of the role it played in reinvigorating investigative journalism and changing the country, I added it to the syllabus for the Fall 2012 class. We looked at the history of Watergate, the role Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and publisher Katharine Graham played in supporting the two reporters who turned a routine police story into the near-impeachment of a president. We also examined how Watergate influenced American politics, the idea of the presidency, and the press.”