Back to the video list: North American History


The Watergate Affaire is a turning point in American politics. After journalists uncovered clandestine operations of President Nixon and his associates practices deemed as unethical were to be abandoned from U.S. politics.






  • Date: 17 Jun 1972 – 09 Aug 1974
  • Location: Washington, USA
  • Start: Break-in in the headquarters of the Democratic Party in the Watergate Complex
  • End: Resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon


Parties & Persons Involved

  • Richard Nixon (1913 – 1994)
  • Bob Woodward (1943 – )
  • Carl Bernstein (1944 – )
  • Mark Felt (1913 – 2008) - "Deep Throat“



  • Nixon sees in Democrats, the media, the justice system & the “liberal” east coast establishment enemies
  • The ministries leak even secret documents to the press
  • Nixon draws up a list of personal enemies
  • Nixon initiates (often not entirely legal) measures against his enemies
  • Nixon’s style of government is autocratic & hierarchical:
    • Powers & influence is taken from the ministries
    • The important decisions are made in the White House



  • Jan 1972: Committee for the Re-election of the President (CRP) initiates a campaign against the Democratic Party with legal & illegal measures
  • 17 Jun 1972: 5 burglars are caught red-handed in the headquarters of the Democratic Party
  • Jun – Sep 1972: Financial between the Watergate burglars & the CRP are proven
  • 29 Aug 1972: “I can say categorically that... no one in the White House staff, no one in this Administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident.“ (Nixon)
  • 07 Nov 1972: Re-election of Nixon\
  • Extensive media coverage – Esp. Bernstein & Woodward (Washington Post) uncover the Watergate Scandal with support of the FBI Deputy Director Mark Felt (Deep Throat)
  • 07 Feb 1973: Senate Watergate Committee takes up its work
  • 30 Apr 1973: Nixon’s close advisors Erlichman, Haldeman, Dean & Attorney General Kleindienst resign as scapegoats
  • 13 & 16 Jul 1973: Butterfield says before the Senate Watergate Committee that a recording system is used in the White House
  • The Senate & the special prosecutor Cox demand the release of the recordings
  • Nixon refuses to release the tapes
  • 20 Oct 1973: Saturday Night Massacre – Nixon forces the removal of special prosecutor Cox & the resignations of General Attorney Richardson & his deputy Ruckelshaus
  • 06 Feb 1974: The House of Representatives authorises the House Judiciary Committee to examine the option of impeachment proceedings
  • 01 Mar 1974: The “Watergate Seven”, high ranking government officials, are sentenced to prison for covering up the Watergate incident
  • 29 Apr 1974: Nixon announces the release of edited transcripts of the White House tapes
  • The public opinion turns against Nixon – "Reading the transcripts is an emetic experience; one comes away feeling unclean.“ (Providence Journal)
  • 24 Jul 1974: The Supreme Court orders the release of the White House tapes – Nixon complies on 30 July
  • 27 Jul 1974: Das House Judiciary Committee recommends to initiate impeachment proceedings
  • 05 Aug 1974: The White House releases the “Smoking Gun Tape“, dated 23 Jun 1972 – Nixon wants to use the CIA to disrupt FBI investigations
  • 08 Aug 1974: Nixon announces his resignation for the next day


Consequences & Impact

  • 69 members of the government are prosecuted & 48 are found guilty
  • Nixon receives a presidential pardon from his successor Ford
  • The people see Nixon as one of the worst U.S. Presidents
  • Higher requirements of financial transparency for political parties & politicians
  • The decade-long practice to record conversations in the White House ends
  • The media is established as “the fourth power in the state” with an increase of investigative journalism which often deals with politicians in a more aggressive & cynical way
  • Watergate becomes synonymous with political scandals, i.e.:
    • Whitewatergate – United States / Clinton
    • Waterkantgate – Germany / Minister President Barschel