Bob Woodward suddenly in the headlines all over again

Bob Woodward


{ }The hallmark of Bob Woodward’s best-seller brand of investigative journalism — and the bane of targets since the 1970s — is a ruthless drive to compress unruly real-world events into powerful, dramatic, marketable narratives.

His success and work ethic, combined with the fact that the major details of his reporting have proven to be mostly true, long drowned out the critics who say source material has been misquoted, miscast, misrepresented - or even made up - in the service of Woodward’s relentless pursuit of a gripping yarn.{ }

But that changed this week when Woodward’s first patron and father figure Ben Bradlee, the legendary Washington Post executive editor who loosed Woodward and reporting partner Carl Bernstein on Richard Nixon in 1972, was quoted in a 1990 interview questioning dramatic elements of Woodward’s Watergate reporting — especially the detail that Deep Throat spied Woodward’s balcony for a potted houseplant used to signal an interview request.

“You know I have a little problem with Deep Throat. … Did that potted [plant] incident ever happen?” Bradlee asked in a 1990 interview, unearthed in New York magazine this week, referring to Woodward’s cloak-and-dagger signal system with informant Mark Felt of the FBI.

The old transcript was bad enough. But Bradlee, still lucid and scratching at crosswords at 90, did nothing to stop a biographer from running with his comments. He seemed willing, even eager, to cast a pinch of doubt on the greatest coup in modern political reporting, muddy the top paragraphs of his own obituary and, possibly, dent Woodward’s reputation as the only reporter in Washington nobody can afford to snub.

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