Alan J Pakula’s “All the President’s Men” is a masterful depiction of the power of true journalism. The brilliant pair of Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman portrayed the journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, respectively, who took the Nixon presidency down following the break-in of Watergate buildings in 1972. “All the President’s Men” is an example of what journalists should do when presented with the choice between reporting what is the truth and what is easy.

Let us recap and discuss everything that went down, which resulted in one of the most important events in modern American political history.

All the President’s Men (1976) Plot Summary and Movie Synopsis:

Five burglars were arrested in Washington’s Watergate complex on June 17, 1972, thanks to the alacrity of security guard Frank Mills. This simple and fairly routine criminal activity changed the landscape of American politics forever. The burglars were arrested from the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. “The Washington Post” reporter Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) was assigned to cover the story. What immediately caught  Woodward’s eye was the expensive lawyer assigned to defend these burglars.

Woodward quickly learned that one of the burglars, a certain James W. McCord Jr, was a former CIA officer. Apparently, it only took a little more effort for Woodward to find a connection between McCord and a man named Howard Hunt. Hunt was one of the employees of Charles Colson, the White House counsel for President Nixon. The findings were enough to get the attention of the Washington Post’s senior editor, Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards). Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), another go-getter of a journalist, was assigned to partner with Woodward to find out more about the Nixon government’s involvement in the whole situation.

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One of the key sources for this investigation would be a government insider that Woodward had known before. Woodward referred to this person as “Deep Throat.” Woodward’s meeting with Deep Throat in an empty garage did not leave him empty-handed. Deep Throat asked Woodward to follow the money. And he, along with Bernstein, did just that. Subsequently, they found that the burglars had a financial connection with Nixon’s re-election committee. Their payment was accomplished through the camping donations that were raised by the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP).

Through further investigations, Woodward and Bernstein learned that CREEP, through its treasurer Hugh W. Sloan Jr., had created a slush fund. This fund’s primary purpose was to be used in dirty tricks that would sabotage the Democratic Party’s campaign. Soon, Woodward and Bernstein figured that the slush fund had to be controlled by H. R. Haldeman, Nixon’s aide and the second most powerful man in the Nixon government. But they could not be sure. When they ran with the story, the White House vehemently denied all allegations. However, the issued statement by the government was deemed to be a non-denial denial. Bradlee decided to back Woodward-Bernstein and see the story through.

All the President’s Men (1976) Ending Explained:

What Is a Non-Denial Denial?

All the President’s Men (1976) Movie Ending Explained
A still from All the President’s Men (1976)

It is one of Ben Bradlee’s legacy. He is credited to be the person who coined this term. Bradlee used this term to describe the general elusively evasive answers by a government spokesperson. A non-denial denial is generally a statement that would seem to be a denial of a said allegation, but it would not be a denial understood correctly. Such strongly worded statements would be presented in an attacking manner. However, underneath the gravitas, the exact words would not explicitly deny the allegations, thus remaining truthful in the possibility of the allegation being correct.

What Happened to President Nixon?

Following the White House’s non-denial denial of Haldeman’s involvement in the CREEP slush fund, Woodward reached out to Deep Throat. Deep Throat, who had remained non-commital in his statements, was persuaded by Woodward to give the exact truth. Reluctantly, Deep Throat revealed that not only Haldeman but the US government is complicit in this. Deep Throat also claimed that the CREEP fund was also used to carry out covert operations. Moreover, he warned Woodward, saying that their lives could be in danger.

Woodward and Bernstein visited Bradlee on the same night. Bradlee, fully knowing the risks, asked his two boys to go forward with this. As President Nixon was shown to be sworn in for his second term, Bernstein and Woodward typed their report that would eventually lead to Nixon’s resignation. The report would start the chain reaction that would eventually get the Supreme Court’s involvement. Nixon might not know about the Watergate break-in, but he, along with Haldemen, participated in the cover-up. Nixon kept audio tapes of these conversations, and the Supreme Court had the tapes released. This proved Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate cover-up beyond any doubt. Nixon resigned in August 1974.

Who was Deep Throat?

The identity of Deep Throat would remain a mystery even after Nixon’s resignation. This informant, who helped Woodward and Bernstein bring down the Nixon administration, would remain elusive for the next 31 years. In 2005, well after the death of Nixon, the identity of Deep Throat was revealed. Mark Felt, the former Associate Director of the FBI, was Deep Throat. This revelation came from an attorney close to Felt. However, Felt was suffering from dementia, and he could not confirm that, although Bernstein and Woodward would later confirm that claim.

What is Ratfucking? What is the Canuck Letter?

The many dirty tricks that Haldeman had the Republican political strategists do to derail and sabotage the opponent’s chances are called “Ratfucking.” The term was mentioned in Woodward and Bernstein’s report and book. One such example of the “ratfucking” trick was the case of the “Canuck Letter.” This dirty trick was perpetrated against Democratic candidate Edmund Muskie.

As Woodward and Bernstein’s report would reveal, this trick successfully sabotaged Muskie’s campaign. Muskie was ahead of Nixon in the polls. During the election campaign, a White House executive will forward a forged letter in the name of Muskie to the Manchester Union-Leader newspaper. ‘Canuck’ is a word that is often deemed offensive for French Canadians. The letter used this term and had offensive remarks about French Canadians. This made it appear Muskie was against French Canadians, and thus, his popularity plummeted among the French-American population. The CREEP slush fund was used to perpetrate such tricks.

How Did Watergate Change History?

Watergate, the name of the building, would become historical after Nixon’s resignation. The word ‘Watergate’ would go on to become synonymous with Nixon’s downfall. The ending ‘Gate’ from “Watergate” would eventually become the defacto suffix to describe any scandal. For example, Will Smith slapping Chris Rock in the 2022 Oscars ceremony is known as “Slapgate.”

Read More: 20 Best Investigative Journalism Movies, Ranked

Trailer:

All the President’s Men (1976) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
The Cast of All the President’s Men (1976) Movie: Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook, Jason Robards
All the President’s Men (1976) Movie Genre: Drama, Runtime: 2h 18m
Where to watch All the President’s Men

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