« Slow Burn

S1 Ep. 1: Martha


People called her crazy, and to be fair she must have seemed crazy. But she was onto something. How Martha Mitchell, the celebrity wife of one of Nixon’s closest henchmen, tried to blow the whistle on Watergate—and ended up ruining her life.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
I will start with a story. You ve probably never heard it place in June in eighteen. Seventy two just a few days after five members the Watergate Office building in Washington DC the story, but a woman in Martha Mitchell, who was at the time very famous whose life was destroyed in large part because of her proximity to the Watergate Conspiracy, Marthas huh worked in politics. His name was John Mitchell in June of backing. Seventy two he wasn't chow, The committee to re Elect President Richard Nixon. Before that Mitchell had an even bigger job was the attorney general of the United States Nixon John Mitchell, his most trusted friend adviser other simply called him deputy president historians is agree on what exactly Martha really knew about Watergate, but in the aftermath burglary she was treated by since men as someone who knew too much was the beginning of my being held prisoner later. Martha would tell David
asked the BBC everything that happened to her that weekend, you really were only held up as an I wasn't end for awhile. First, she was kept four wheel in California, hotel for days Then she was forcibly tranquillised while being held down in her bed later and public Nixon loyal try discredit her in the press as an unreliable alcoholic, etc. Crazy and to be fair. She must have seen crazy, but it turned out that she was onto something something very big This is slow burn part cast about Watergate, fascinating story and the name of water gave up the gang of wire travellers who report on the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. I'm your we may find, and over the next. Months. I will be your guide to everything you never knew, but the greatest Eric and political scandal of the twentieth century. What was it like experience in real time, and how does it feel to
every morning wondering what was going to happen next, episode, one Martha Martha Mitchell in the early nineties, Seventys was a bona fide celebrity shoes, glare ass, an outspoken, a high energy southern Bell from Arkansas shoes. Inner fifty but she was girlish sure long dangling hearings and kept her bright blonde air and a beehive she had written. Asian for loving fun for drinking a little You much and also talking a little too much The Mitchell has been on the phone again with Washington, the STAR News, antelope beauty, she biological doubts and ran, and do not- and I guess I do I'm always up to something- maybe it's good, maybe by it, but I'm always represented more if it was not a typical cabinet wife, nineteen. Seventy the New York Times called her. The most talked about talkative woman in Washington she's. Here
tv and, along those appearances him off zany friendly, even though she was always going on about how much he hated liberals, whose funny about it sort of like a ferociously anticommunist, Lucille, Ball, J Edgar the notorious FBI director, one said she's, one of the most lovable girls I have ever met. She says what she thinks. Unless the chips forward they may Marthas Garrulousness routinely cost headaches for administration. One time she personally called the wives of a bunch of senators and demanded that their husbands committee supporting what makes a supreme court nominees to give you a sense of how disruptive this kind of thing could be Richard Nixon himself once told us, you have staff in a meeting quote. We have to turn off Martha. Being gossip with central the Martha's image. Her nickname was mouth of the south and often during look appearances. She get ready for it, like it was her defining foible, here's a clip from the potter
and be she company show laughin hello. I want gracious. Is this party to whom I am speaking? Yes, this is Martha here, Lui Tomlin, play to telephone operator calling the real life Martha represent her with an award for giving the phone company so much business. When Missus Mitchell, we have found a young person who has done a mouse for my bow your prize is a telephone in the shape of the Supreme Court. That'll make hanging up a real pleasure, There is no one Martha Mitchell like talking to and a phone more than journalists, The line on her was that she would drink call one of her. Your friends late at night talk to them for hours and then get quoted in paper, and she just talk. She also listen According to a biography issued routinely eavesdrop on her husband phone calls rifle through the Wars and sometimes even listening on secret meetings that he had with other Nixon associates in their apartment whenever, got caught. Her husband would send her up to room at which point she would creep
put down the stairs and continuously from landing was John Mitchell doing any secret meetings. Well, broadly speaking, he was scheming against the Democrats. On behalf of Richard Nixon as the Washington Post reported a few months, Watergate break him who control the slush fund that was used to pay for clandestine but a spying sabotage. You name, it here going to prison for conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury, You know the presents man, you probably remember him, threatening Carl Bernstein, saying that story had written with Bob Woodward about the slush fund, ran in the paper washed and pushed publisher Three grams gonna get her tit caught in a big fat ringer, its direct quote. By the way, so imagine you, John Mitchell, you, the presence, closest confidant in charge of all kinds of political skulduggery. Meanwhile, your wife famous for listening and in your meetings, getting hammered on whiskey and bloody
Reporters now here's. What happened during that fateful June began to nineteen seventy two. It sparked the undoing of Richard Nixon Presidency and the John Career and Ruin Martha Mitchell's life. Johnny Martha Joe had come to California, accompanied by a troop of Nixon AIDS, Gmos The campaign work and Martha always a pauper guests. Republican fund razors was looking forward to a pool party and donors house where she gets rub? with John Wayne Clint Eastwood in Georgia Gabor at some point, John Mitchell got were that five burgers had been arrested. The Watergate complex in the way our of Saturday morning, while trying to win all eavesdropping equipment and the burglars broke through a fire escape door that led to the committee's offices. The men were wearing, suits caring cameras and radio equipment enlargements of cash there obviously trying to bud my crowds office on hearing the news, John Mitchell, told his wife tat. He had to go back to wash them right away
He and tell her wine suggested that you stay behind California to get some rest presume. We didn't want, is nosey loose slipped wife around what he and the president began planning the cover up. There is problem. No Martha new one of the burghers was arrested that we can in fact the most important one. This is a police father of James W Mccord James Report is a former CIA officer what I see as a cost. Them to presently Richard Nixon Re Election Campaign Committee hired to install that security system Martha. Mccord, because he'd workers are personal security guard in the spring of seventy two, Elton John Mitchell had a young daughter, Marty Engagement, had driven Marty to and from school, though she would later deny it Martha, reportedly like Mccord and trusted him and, of course, she knew exactly how closely you work. Their husband For that reason. John Mitchell didn't want his wife to find out. The Mccord was involved in the burglary, who knew how she would react
Questions she would ask, or who should try to talk to other cords involvement with the committee. So when he left for Dc Mitchell put Afore FBI named Steve King in charge of Martha, and he told me away from newspapers, tv news, any coverage, the burglary. But I'm Monday morning, just two days after the break in Martha got her hands copy of the away times. Front pages a mug shot of Jane the cord alongside article laying out the basic facts: the Watergate break him in the article Martha's husband was quoted, saying that Mccord wasn't really member of the committee to elect the president. Came to be known eventually by the cheeky acronym creep. John said Mc Core than the others were neither acting on behalf of the campaign committee, nor with its consent, Mitchell, all well done for creep according to middle statement, was to help installed security system months before the burglary, more than your husband was lying. She didn't know why she tragic. On find out what was going on, but she had trouble reaching him first
did she finally reached one of his AIDS end in a fury, told him. Her next call would be to her friend Helen Thomas reporter at the United Press. National, newswire, Steve King, a security guard had been assigned to look after Martha was instead to keep away from the fund, but this was easier said than done on Thursday June twenty second five days after the breakin, Martha pretended to be asleep. Nicht Optical Helen comments. Spill the beans and watering it right away? When the subject came up, she got very apt.
And started talking about how, for husband, didn't get out of the dirty business politics, he would leave him, and he said I have given can allow tomato delay cetera before Thomas got a chance to ask more of a kind of dirty business use. Talking about suddenly heard both exclaimed. You just get away, get away, get away, get away, and I didn't know what was happening and ended with a phone disconnect. Then the line went dead. Thomas tried to call back a few times on success fully before reaching the switchboard operator, who told her that Missus Mitchell was indisposed and could not talk. Thomas called John Mitchell himself, and told him what had happened. He said strangely Bosnia in his reply that little sweetheart he said I love you so much. She gets a little upset about politics, but she loves me and I love her and that's what counts as Martin. It or explained with Steve King. The former FBI agent, would interrupted with Helen, Thomas and king, Russia's, then and jerked out the telephone. What you literally toward a quarter of the wall. That night,
was locked in her room and, if you're trying to climb out RO balcony you got into some kind of struggle with king and putting her hands will play class patio door soon after Nixon first, the lawyer from combine summoned. But the deal with the rapidly escalating situation bring in bringing the doktor came over to fight Martha desperately upset shouting things. Things like I'm how the political prisoner and No information with this. Five men held Martha down in her bed, while the doctor injected her with a tranquilizer or is Martha putted, you stuck a needle in her behind. At some point, you would claim Steve. King kicked her today identify the bodyguard she said: tore a telephone out of her wall, threw her to the floor and kicked her. This is Mitchell said the man is Steve King, who is presently employed as chief of security they become chairman of the Republican Party. Wisconsin was recently named ambassador to the Czech Republic by Donald Trump cards,
for comment, but you never go back to me more than flew back EAST today. After getting her hands did But a hospital on Sunday morning, a week after the burglary, She reached Helen Thomas for a second time and told her my husband very much monotonous. And for all those dirty things. I'm and blue. She said they don't want you to talk. There were newspaper stories about Marthas confinement. They They ran in the so called women's pages as Helen Thomas who died in twenty thirteen put it in her memoirs editors, just another case of Martha being Martha and Newsworthy only because it reveals a rift in a very public marriage that riff grew John Mitchell and his associates worked feverishly to cover up the White House, his role in the Watergate burglary, while Martha I am convinced that reach Dixon himself had personally orchestrated. The whole thing has done everything to protect. Mr President, Mr Mitchell has become the bar one component,
Europe was a concerted effort to discredit Martha and oppress, to painters drunken rack and ahead case somebody We believe the matter what she said. So I into their hands beautifully, because when I got back instead of going out and say and people ask stayed in the and all the while these White House, rumours of persisting, I submit just crazy Mathematician Alcott, Martha Mitchell's, its Martha Mitchell's thy, and, of course they just kept down and on and I died in the apartment, and it is added to the beautiful little story not long after the break in John. To as the head of creep, who sent you to spend more time with his wife and his daughter. And by the summer of eighteen, seventy three more than her we were hardly speaking to each other even to continue living together in their New York City apartment according to Martha. Had become a broken reckless. I think it through to him. She said
Martha told John, that he had to choose between his family and its president, which is to say he had turned Dixon and save himself. Where else, the Mitchell is going to leave her husband, the former attorney general, because she believes he's going to jail. She told you pie, a new story announcing their impending separation, Martha quoted as saying that her husband was a fool for choosing to shield the President courting her biography, my philosophy, back for John, because she believed whose Bennington Nixon's will continue Flax in the past. She said I feel for the answer. How could a week secure man conglomerate of nothing manipulate. For power, strong competent person, like John Mitchell after John moved out, or that two portrait of him that had been hanging in the wall in their apartment. She smeared it turpentine clorox mayonnaise in Heinz ketchup, in doing so. The Washington Post reported Martha you.
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I learned about Martha Mitchell for a book called nightmare, the underside of Nixon years by journalists, J Anthony Lucas. I couldn't believe never heard of story before how is it possible thought I'd. Never known about this. Very famous woman is political Liberty who was married to the former turning general, he would try the blow the whistle on Richard Nixon had been dated against your will. Who had followed Watergate as it unfolded. You'd have definitely been reading, but Martha Mitchell, but if you're not to the scandalous, come mostly from the movie version of the president's men, I realized recently that Martha Mitchell I recently that Martha Mitchell remind me of someone, someone nothing to do with her or their husband, or with Watergate, someone by the name of Anthony Scare, mochi. Remember him one of the things I cannot stand above this town is the best staring that goes on here? Ok, where I grew up in the neighborhood on from where funds stables, he was allowed from long island comes Communications director for ten days in July. During
you told a new Yorker reporter Steve Ben was trying to suck his own cock now. I want to be clear here: it's not that Mitchell and scare me. She were similar figures in even a big talked about in the same way this, if you been falling politics, we probably spent a lot of time. Thinking about the move this past summer and then he got fired and now evolve. Forgotten that he ever existed, but the brief rising but followed Anthony scare. She was really entertaining. It also We tells us much about this year in politics as anything else. It's happened in twenty seventeen, if historians for five years from now and understand the Trump administration they could do a lot. More and taking a long hard look at the ceremony, Sierra Brief, as it was now, I can t Are you having spent the past few months, reading old articles, but the next year's interviewing people who experienced those years first hand there a dozen scary, movie level stories about Watergate stories, and everyone with a time, but that, for whatever reason, not been passed down in our collective memory. I think that's. Why hearing
The Mitchell story gives me such a vivid sense of what it was like to live through Watergate. It lets me inhabit moment, when no one knew what was going to happen when the people involved in no reporters covering it didn't know, mixed themselves, certainly had no idea Martha on the phone with Helen Thomas that night in June about to blow the lid off this thing. Catch a glimpse of an alternative reality in which everything played out differently what if she had managed to stay on the phone or shifting on Thomas about gene record and John Mitchell in the burglary thank Heaven, the Mitchell forces us to put aside what we know about Watergate Just imagine what it felt like to find out about it in real time. How do people defend Nixon the saga unfurled over the turning points will feel like twitter. The daily drip of news. When you didn't know what's coming next or how is all gonna end in the process of telling story will be excavating all kinds of some plus that some of you may have forgotten and others never knew in the first place, I also be introducing you to more people like Martha Mitchell
people who are involved in the burglary or the cover operate investigation do not become canonical, figures along the lines of Woodward and Bernstein Deep Throat and John Dene among the fascinating bit players will mean the seventy nine year old, populist from Texas sort of you with warn of his time, who had the first congressional investigation into Watergate You also gonna meet the senator who, despite being a gregariousness became a liberal hero When you add the Senate Watergate hearings the summer of seventy three, then there dixons apologists, the commentators and the politicians who struck by the president, even after became clear that he was criminal. You asking. Why are we doing this? Now? It's all some big anniversary to celebrate in the end is this: we are, at a time right now when it feels like anything, could happen. It makes you wonder if we were through the next Watergate. Would we know it that's what I'm hoping to figure out by get to the end of the story. Wanting I've already figured out is that one
it was kind of a blast to live through, at least for some people. The Cabot late night host, interviews. Slew of people involved in the Watergate saw Gonna show threatening them. The two and seventy three told me, he still thinks in a time of his life with a great deal wistfulness, I must say I miss it terribly, I think of it. The way you would think him in here earlier years you got to spend a year in Paris and you never got to go back. You never go back. You can never get back to that wonderful feeling. He brought up a calm at the door of a doll made on a show have to have my Watergate fix every single morning? I get like this. If I haven't got there are there are Watergate junk. All people who, just drunk as an important part of people's lives, being honest. Have to admit that I feel that way about the investigation of the trunk campaigns ties with Russia. Call me hearings and reading about whose special prosecutor, Robert Malchus Subpoenaed, watching Trump blast reporting, is fake news for people who follow
The has been gripping an exciting, even as it fills us with dread It was the same during the next administration. People felt as giddy mixed excitement, obsession and anxiety, all at once it was thrilling. It was also very serious which brings us back to Martha Mitchell, in the end, she paid dearly for the limited role she played in, administration's downfall she could have really ended. The whole thing fort started by blowing the cover up in its first is I don't know, but her life is unloving fast talking boundary vaunt pretty much ended with Watergate, even though she had indeed appear on television every once in awhile, while Schiller Biographer, but last conversation she had of their husband before the following again, took over their lives last decent words we ever had together, she said in eighteen. Seventy five Martha got sick. The following year of cancer after the hometown erected a bust in her honor and honour.
Sk Granite Pedestal, there was an inscription, shall The truth, in truth, shall make you free In a letter to the editor printed in her local paper in Arkansas, someone wrote kind of a dippy saint, a Dizzy, yet right in the target, women too, freedom and honesty meant more than protocol, inappropriate behaviour and her funeral Somebody had been arranged and of white chrysanthemums, spelling out the words Martha was right. I should say Martha was one of the first public figures to call for mixing zones. Asian she did, it may have seventy three more than a year before he left office, Sholto and Thomas. That Nixon had let the country down amazingly Nixon pointed the finger right back at her. Curiously, his famous interview with David Frost in eighteen. Seventy seven, I'm good and if it hadn't been for Martha and God rest her soul, because. She and her heart was a good person.
Just how to meddle in emotional problematic? Nobody knew about that been from Arthur Underwater. This was Nixon's big insight a little less than three years after resigning. The presidency in disgrace that may The whole mass could have been avoided if not for conspirators crazy wife. The plight of the matter is that, if John had been watchin that store Watergate would never am I saying here at this late juncture, water should be blame, Martha Mitchell. Of course it might have happened anyway. Others smarter, broader who knows. Most people have gotten about Martha Mitchell by now, but there is, one context in which her name still comes up psychology. Talk about a phenomenon which someone gets diagnosed delusional or paranoid, because things that seem totally crazy, an implausible, but then it turns out the not crazy after all, no they're saying, is true all that phenomenon
Mitchell effect. This part catch the production of sleep plus Slates membership programme. Sleep plus members get a complete bonus. Episode of slow burn every week going deeper The wild boar Watergate I'll, be sharing somebody amazing stuff. I found in researching the series and play extended versions of my interviews with people who watch and I'll go down this week. We ve got were from De Cabot Highbrow talk, show host, who interviewed so many of the Watergate players and show me said, is thing was continued to. Let is nice daughter, jewelry go about the country defended with his knowing that the things he had told me we're not true or a bunker will go down the same way I already did
Plus members also help support the shout and the rest of our work. You can find out more and sign up for sleigh, plus its late dot com. Slash Watergate, thanks to the NBC News Archive the BBC, Daphne productions, water, friendly and Roma productions and ruin in the years productions for the archival audio. You heard on this episode. You can see a full list of the books, articles and documentaries that we relied on research this episode and our show page slow, is produced by me and Andrew Parsons are sceptical Josh Levine, Gabriel Roth, the editorial director plus the outward shows by Teddy blanks from ships special thanks to slaves June Thomas and Steve, like type we can slow burn. You, ve, probably heard but the famous Senate, Watergate hearings have met in seventy three, but did you but the other Watergate hearings,
in every so too will hear the story. How the first major investigation into the president's dirty tricks ended with an enraged congressmen, delivering a lecture to four conspicuously empty chairs present next football rules for empty chairs professor greasy, I'm Leon. They see you next week.
Transcript generated on 2020-07-22.