L. Patrick Gray, the FBI chief during the Watergate break-in, says he believes deputy W. Mark Felt became the anonymous source known as Deep Throat because he was angry at being passed over as J. Edgar Hoover’s successor and wanted to sabotage Gray.
“I think there was a sense of revenge in his heart, and a sense of dumping my candidacy, if you will,” Gray told ABC’s “This Week” during an interview for its Sunday broadcast.
Gray, who was selected to lead the FBI the day after Hoover’s death on May 2, 1972, also says he refused White House demands to fire Felt or order a lie-detector test over leaks about the Watergate investigation.
On June 17 of that year, five men were arrested in the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington. Nixon resigned the presidency on Aug. 9, 1974.
Disagreeing with other Watergate-era figures who have called Felt a traitor to the Nixon administration, Gray said, “I think he was treacherous only to me, a man who trusted him.”
Gray, 88, served less than a year as acting FBI director, resigning amid allegations he had destroyed documents in the Watergate scandal. Gray was Nixon’s choice to be deputy attorney general when Hoover died.
After denying it to friends and family for decades, the 91-year-old Felt just revealed in a Vanity Fair article that he had been the shadowy government figure who gave information and direction to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward as he and Carl Bernstein covered Watergate. Their work is credited with helping topple the Nixon administration.
According to a transcript of the ABC interview that the network provided, Gray was asked why Felt would have believed he could not have gone to Gray instead of the press with his concern that the Nixon White House was trying to thwart the FBI’s investigation.
“I was not a political toady for Mr. Nixon of any other politician,” Gray said. “I never felt that I was doing the White House’s bidding. And I resisted them on any number of occasions, particularly in Felt’s case.”
Woodward and Bernstein’s 1974 book “All the President’s Men” says that Deep Throat suggested Gray had blackmailed Nixon into nominating him as permanent director out of fear of what might be revealed if Gray were no longer at the agency to “keep the lid on” the Watergate investigation.
In the ABC interview, Gray denied he had blocked any investigations of Watergate. He said he had merely delayed one probe when the White House claimed the CIA was already investigating _ and then continued when the CIA reported it actually was not pursuing that lead.
A White House discussion on how to use the CIA to stem the FBI’s investigation _ caught on Nixon’s own tapes _ is often referred to as “the smoking gun” that proved the president’s involvement in the Watergate cover-up.
“We continued on, and we penetrated it,” Gray said. “I didn’t need Mark Felt to tell me that I had to press on. I knew what was at stake here.”
Gray said that the White House asked several times that Felt be fired and that Nixon himself demanded that Felt undergo a lie-detector test. “I felt that was degrading to the second-highest official of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and I would not stoop to that,” Gray told ABC.
Besides, Felt had assured him on several occasions that he was not secretly passing along information to the press, Gray said.
Gray said he trusted Felt completely, even to the point of putting Felt in charge of investigating FBI leaks. But they continued.
“I couldn’t stop it because my No. 2 man was the guy that was doing it,” he said.