Publishers prepare to cough up for insidestory on Deep Throat

Now that
the mystery is over and Deep Throat has been identified as a former top
FBI agent, the race is on to see who will make the most money from the
surprise revelation.

Book publishers, documentary producers and
Hollywood film makers are lining up with chequebooks. It’s estimated
that Mark Felt, the 91-year-old ailing former number two at the FBI
(pictured above with his daughter), could make as much as a million
dollars – or at least his family could. One of his daughters has
admitted she is looking forward to making money to pay for her
children’s education. That’s the inside story.

For several years,
it’s now revealed, there have been attempts to make money from Felt’s
involvement in the Watergate scandal that brought down President Nixon.
Several book deals have been discussed. Several magazines have been
invited to pay for the story.

Also revealed – to many people’s
surprise – was just how many people had been privy to what was
considered America’s biggest journalistic secret. At least one deal –
with People – fell through because the magazine would not pay the price
demanded.

The biggest race now will be with Bob Woodward, one of
the Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate story. Woodward’s
book – to be called The Secret Man – is being rushed to the printers.
It is expected to be in bookstores by next month He and his colleague,
Carl Bernstein (and The Washington Post), feel betrayed by the
unexpected revelation about Deep Throat’s identity in next month’s
Vanity Fair magazine. Both had insisted, until days earlier, they would
not reveal Deep Throat’s identity until after his death.

As for
whether Felt is a hero or a traitor, the US seems divided. Former
President Bill Clinton thinks he did the right thing, others call him a
snitch who leaked confidential information because he was bitter over
being passed over by Nixon for the top job at the FBI when his boss J
Edgar Hoover died.

How much did Vanity Fair pay for its exclusive? Editor Graydon Carter insists not much. Perhaps it was as little as $10,000.

Mostly
this went to the California writer and lawyer John O’Connor, who
approached the magazine with the claim that he knew the secret that
intrigued journalists for three decades.

At first the magazine was sceptical.

But O’Connor proved he had a personal inside track and convinced Vanity Fair of his integrity.

The magazine worked on the story for two years, even gave it a codename, and had staff sign confidentiality agreements.

There were even dummy coverlines when finally the story went to the printer.

All
this time Bernstein and Woodward knew nothing about what was going on –
although previously there had been talks with Felt’s family about a
book that Woodward was planning.

Over the years several writers
had suggested that Felt may have been Deep Throat. Several magazines
came close to revealing his name: The Washingtonian in 1974, Atlantic
Monthly in 1992 and even People in 2003.

Over the years the identity of Deep Throat was a popular guessing game.

Many
journalists guessed wrongly. The names included Henry Kissinger, Bob
Dole, Alexander Haig and even Diane Sawyer, a former White House
assistant, who is now a TV anchorwoman.

Some insist they knew Deep Throat’s identity all along, including:

● Carl Bernstein’s former wife, Norah Ephron, who says her husband never confided the name to her, but she guessed anyway.

● Sally Quinn, the journalist wife of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, who says she never asked her husband.

● NY Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams, who claims she named the former FBI man in her column last February.

Why
if so many people knew or suspected Felt was Deep Throat did no one run
the story? Mainly because no one was sure how Felt would react on TV or
on radio, or even in a news interview.

Would he admit his role, or deny it? A denial would be disastrous.

As one journalist, assigned to check up the story for People magazine, said: “Some days he doesn’t know who he is. Some days he says he was Deep Throat, other days he wasn’t.”

Another journalist who spent three years on the story reported: “Felt doesn’t even know who he is half the time.”

Felt,
the reporter suggested, was five years too late in deciding to tell his
story. Even the editor of Vanity Fair now admits that when his
assistant took the first call from O’Connor, the assistant said: “Some
one wants to talk to you about Deep Throat? Who’s he?”

Now the big question is who will write Felt’s book.

The
ex-FBI agent is ailing: he had a stroke three years ago, sometimes
imagines he is still in the FBI and has difficulty remembering details
of his conversations with Woodward or even the code signals they used
when they needed to make contact, such as a red flag in a flowerpot in
the window of Woodward’s Washington apartment.

Also, there is now
a belief that Felt may not have been Bernstein and Woodward’s only
tipster and confidant, and that he only confirmed what they had dug up
elsewhere.

All of which leaves only one mystery from that era
still to be solved: what happened to the 18-and-a-half minutes of
secret conversations that were deleted from the famous Nixon tapes,
supposedly inadvertently, by his White House secretary Rosemary Woods?

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