Does the photo show Woodward and Bernstein watching Nixon’s resignation?
On January 10, 2022, a photo was shared on the r/Damnthatsinteresting subreddit on Reddit that claimed to show Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein watching former US President Richard Nixon step down on live television. “God bless great journalism and great reporters,” the thread’s caption read. It may have been published due to the release of Bernstein’s book, “Chasing History”, which came out the same month. The New York Times hailed it as “an exuberant memoir of the golden age of newspapers”.
Woodward and Bernstein are best known for their investigative reporting for the Washington Post on the Watergate scandal. They filed their first article on the subject in 1972.
The Reddit Post
The caption for the image below in the viral post reads: “After the White House claimed for over a year that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were making up stories and creating fictional sources, here they are watching President Richard Nixon resigning on television.”
In truth, this photograph did not show the two men watching Nixon resign. Similar captions that have been posted on Reddit many times in the past were not factually accurate.
The origins of the image
So when was the photo taken?
On April 29, 2018, presidential historian Michael Beschloss tweeted a high quality version of the uncredited photograph. His tweet was correctly captioned, “Woodward and Bernstein watch Nixon’s first televised speech on Watergate, firing Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Dean – 45 years ago tomorrow night.”
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) April 29, 2018
Bernstein sat in the chair and Woodward sat on the floor.
The caption of Beschloss’ tweet referred to April 30, 1973, when Nixon gave his first live televised speech on the Watergate scandal. A golden curtain can be seen behind him in both the photo and a YouTube video that shows remarks from that evening:
It wasn’t until more than a year later, on August 8, 1974, that Nixon gave his resignation speech on live television. A blue curtain was visible behind him for the 1974 remarks, which differed from the gold curtain seen in Woodward and Bernstein’s photo:
Although the photo shared on Reddit does not show Nixon resigning, it is true that the two men were both in the offices of The Washington Post when the former president made the announcement. In fact, the setting may have been similar to where they watched the April 1973 speech.
We know this because in July 2014, Woodward and Bernstein pondered Nixon’s resignation after 40 years, as did former New Yorker reporter Elizabeth Drew.
Bernstein recalled Katharine Graham, then editor of The Washington Post, telling them there should be “no jubilation” that night. Referring to the evening of August 8, 1974, he said:
Bob and I were in the press room. Katharine Graham, the Post’s editor, had come down from her desk. [And] Ben Bradlee, the newspaper’s editor. There were surprisingly few people in the newsroom because we knew what was coming.
And Katherine actually said to the group of us, “no gloating”, and it was unnecessary because my feeling was one of total utter awe that it’s come to this, that finally, the country was going to be spared him in power, and also the acknowledgment that the people in the room had played a real role in what was happening. But, admiration, total admiration. And the fact that the system had worked.
Woodward recalled specific details of the evening in August 1974, including the fact that they had been given bologna sandwiches and that he was “sitting on the floor”, just as he had for the speech precedent which appeared on the photograph of 1973:
I was sitting on the floor in Howard Simon’s office, he was the editor, watching the speech, and that was before the [Jeff] The Bezos era. It was the Graham era, and so they gave out sandwiches that night, and I know I remember the really bad bologna sandwich I was sitting there eating.
Not only did Katharine Graham issue the “no gloating” rule, but Ben Bradlee did. And he walked around the newsroom slowly, showing no emotion. And Ben and I went to the elevator because we were going to go down and get something to eat. And the elevator opens, and there’s [Robert] Sargent Shriver, who had somehow broken into the Post’s security system. And Shriver, being the head of the Peace Corps during the Kennedy era, married to one of the Kennedys, very Kennedy, he sees Ben and he goes, “Yay!” And Ben is just kind of, you know, trying to pretend, and Shriver just wouldn’t stop him and he just said, “Oh, I had to be here tonight with you.”
And, I think if that continued, the moment was one of, you know, what’s going on here, what does that mean, and that was 40 years ago. And to some extent, Carl and I spent those 40 years, Elizabeth too, you know, what was Watergate? What does it mean? What is its ultimate impact?
Questions and answers from the same panel were available on the Washington Post’s YouTube channel:
In 1976, the efforts of the two reporters appeared on the big screen in the film “All the President’s Men”. Robert Redford played Woodward and Dustin Hoffman portrayed Bernstein.
In sum, no, the photo of Woodward and Bernstein watching Nixon on television was not taken when the president announced his resignation in August 1974. The photo was taken in April 1973 during the former’s first televised speech. president on the Watergate scandal.
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Abramson, Jill. “Carl Bernstein’s Eulogy for the Newspaper Industry.” The New York Times, January 7, 2022. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/07/books/review/carl-bernstein-chasing-history.html.
“All the president’s men.” IMDb.com, 1976, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074119/.
Beschloss, Michael. Twitter, April 29, 2018, https://twitter.com/beschlossdc/status/990672662686064640.
CBS News Vault: Nixon Resigned in 1974. 1974, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_e9Ot63lSiw.
Familiar_Internet. ‘Journalists Who Revealed the Watergate Scandal Watch President Nixon Resign, 1974 [750×506].” R/HistoryPorn, October 9, 2021, www.reddit.com/r/HistoryPorn/comments/q4n9de/reporters_who_exposed_the_watergate_scandal_watch/.
Jump_Yosserian. “Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein watch Nixon resign, 44 years ago today.” R/OldSchoolCool, August 8, 2018, www.reddit.com/r/OldSchoolCool/comments/95oewo/bob_woodward_and_carl_bernstein_watching_nixon/.
Klein, Esdras. “Elizabeth Drew covered Watergate. Here’s what she thinks of Trump. Voice, February 25, 2017, https://www.vox.com/2017/2/25/14738452/elizabeth-drew-ezra-klein-watergate-trump.
Kronyzx. “God bless great journalism and great reporters.” R/Damn it’s interesting, January 10, 2022, www.reddit.com/r/Damntthatsinteresting/comments/s0mngv/god_bless_great_journalism_and_great_journalists/.
_NITRIS_. “Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein watch President Nixon step down.” R/Damn it’s interesting, February 25, 2019, www.reddit.com/r/Damntthatsinteresting/comments/aus8qc/bob_woodward_and_carl_bernstein_watching/.
“President Nixon’s Resignation Speech.” PBS.Org, August 8, 1974, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/spc/character/links/nixon_speech.html.
R.Sargent Shriver | JFK library. https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/the-kennedy-family/r-sargent-shriver.
Richard Nixon – Address to the Nation on the Watergate Inquiries. 1973. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvFsLXLVE-c.
“The complete Watergate timeline (took longer than you think).” PBS NewsTime, 30 May 2017, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/complete-watergate-timeline-took-longer-realize.
Woodward and Bernstein remember where they were when Nixon quit. 2014. Washington Post, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVXEX75APcA.