Ben Bradlee dead: Celebrated former Watergate editor dies, aged 93

Mr Bradlee died of natural causes after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for several years

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Ben Bradlee, the celebrated former editor of The Washington Post, who presided over the paper’s coverage of the Watergate scandal, has died at his home in Washington DC. He was 93. According to a piece published on the Post’s website, Mr Bradlee died of natural causes on Tuesday, after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for several years. His wife, Sally Quinn, a columnist for the paper, said in an interview last month that he had been receiving end-of-life care at the couple’s home.

As the executive editor of the Post from 1968  to 1991, Bradlee doubled the title’s readership and guided it to level status with the New York Times as one of America’s most esteemed newspapers. In 1971, against the demands of the Nixon administration, he decided to join the Times in running stories based on the leaked “Pentagon Papers”, about the Vietnam War.

He then supported the work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, as the two young reporters began investigating a 1972 break-in at the Watergate Hotel, the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. The Post’s coverage of the Watergate affair led to a Pulitzer for the paper in 1973, and eventually brought down President Richard Nixon, who resigned from office the following year. In All The President’s Men, the 1976 film about Watergate, Mr Bradlee was played by the late Jason Robards, who won an Oscar for his performance.

In a joint statement, Woodward and Bernstein said yesterday, “Ben was a true friend and genius leader in journalism. He forever altered our business. His one unbending principle was the quest for the truth and the necessity of that pursuit.”

Born in 1921, Mr Bradlee was descended from one of the Boston upper class families known as Boston Brahmins. Later, his home in Washington’s Georgetown neighbourhood became a hub for the US capital’s own social elite. He was close friends with President John F Kennedy, a fellow Bostonian. Last year, President Barack Obama presented him with the highest civilian honour in the US: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Mr Bradlee also spent several years as an international director on the board of The Independent, stepping down from the role in 2003.