Dying rabbi 'names' Watergate's Deep Throat

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The Independent Online
JOHN CARLIN

Washington

The words "journalist" and "integrity" go no better together in some people's minds than "military" and "intelligence" do in others'. A famous deviation of the rule was provided by the Watergate scandal. More than two decades have passed but the two Washington Post reporters who broke the story have yet to reveal the name of the legendary Deep Throat, the Nixon-administration insider who gave them their first tip-off.

On Monday night, Richard Nixon's most steadfast defender and closest confidant, Rabbi Baruch Korff, sought to unravel the mystery with the claim that Deep Throat was none other than Diane Sawyer, the ABC correspondent who achieved the signal distinction last week of obtaining the first a deux TV interview with Michael Jackson and his wife, Lisa Presley.

"I believed it was her," said Rabbi Korff, who is 80 and dying of cancer. "I have no solid evidence of it, but everything points to her." Ms Sawyer worked in the White House press office at the time of Watergate. Rabbi Korff based his conclusion on the "special relationship" Ms Sawyer had with Nixon's press secretary, Ron Ziegler. Ms Sawyer responded yesterday through her agent that the claim was laughable.

Bob Woodward, one of the reporters who broke Watergate, said the rabbi was wrong. "For 20 years we've always said that Deep Throat was a man," Mr Woodward said. "There is no evidence that Diane Sawyer in her kind of subsidiary role in the Nixon White House would have that kind of knowledge."

The rabbi stood by Nixon at the time of Watergate, even though members of the president's Quaker faith publicly called for his impeachment three months before he resigned in August 1974.

During the Watergate hearings, Rabbi Korff founded the National Citizens Committee for Fairness to the President. The day Nixon resigned, the rabbi was the only man with him at Old Executive Office in the White House. After the resignation, the rabbi founded the President Nixon Justice Fund, where he raised $500,000 to pay for the Watergate legal fees.

Rabbi Korff, a Ukrainian immigrant, was initially attracted to Nixon because he saw the president as a friend to the Jews, the saviour of Israel during the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

When Nixon died last year he observed the tribute of the mourners, Republicans and Democrats, with a sense of bitter-sweet vindication. "They were afraid to praise Nixon when he was alive, for fear he would rise again," he said. "Now I guess they feel safe. It's a sad comment on human integrity.''

At a fund-raising dinner for Nixon, he predicted that the US would one day create a new "day of atonement" to crave God's forgiveness for the sins committed against a fallen president.

Rabbi Korff was unable to attend Nixon's funeral due to illness but paid tribute in a long obituary published in the New York Times. It was an extract from an unpublished book Rabbi Korff wrote called The President and I and took the form of an imaginary letter written by Nixon to his grandchildren: "I raise my lantern to your glowing eyes and beaming faces and pray they never fade ... the rhythm of your pulse, the rhapsody of your laughter, the gaiety of your feet, your harp and song reverberate in my being as I close my eyes."

On the day of Nixon's funeral Rabbi Korrf received two phone calls from publishers who said they had no interest in his book.

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