PBS marks the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation from the presidency through the lens of talk show host Dick Cavett’s Watergate fascination.
At 9pm on August 8, 1974, Richard Milhaus Nixon took to the airwaves to officially address the nation one final time as President of the United States to announce his resignation. This was the culmination of a two-year scandal that defined modern Washington scandals: the break-in at the Watergate Hotel. However, the scandal may not have materialized at all had an item in the Washington Post not caught the attention of talk show host Dick Cavett.
This provides the framework for the documentary Dick Cavett’s Watergate, which is scheduled to debut on PBS stations at 9pm Eastern Friday, August 8.1 Through interviews with Cavett, Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward2, and former White House Counsel John Dean (who accused Nixon during Senate hearings), and use of archived interviews from The Dick Cavett Show, this documentary reconstructs the complete timeline of the scandal. From the break-in in June of 1972 to President Gerald Ford explaining why he pardoned Nixon, we get a sense of how the news cycle functioned in the 1970’s.
As one commentator mentions during the documentary, the coverage of the Watergate Affair (as it was known at the time) revealed a world that was like “House of Cards on steroids.” I would have loved to have watched Senator Fred Thompson (yes, of Law & Order fame) questioning witnesses at the Senate hearings all day, but there’s a lot of story to cram into 55 minutes. This is an excellent introduction to the scandal, and a fantastic reminiscence for those who were glued to their TVs in the summer of 1974. Yes, you should be watching this.