The Watergate Scandal of 1972 and President Nixon

The Watergate Hotel in 1972
The Watergate Hotel in 1972

On June 17, 1972 five people broke into the Watergate Hotel and Democratic party’s National Headquarters and bugged the telephones. The burglars were members of the “Plumbers.” They were found by a security guard and taken into custody.

Before the Incident:
At the beginning of the 1970’s, the United States was still struggling with many of the problems from the 1960’s, for example, the war in Vietnam. The public started seeing the war in a negative way. On the other hand, the New York Times publishes the “Pentagon Papers” that were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg.
The “Plumbers,” a secret unit of strongly Republican anti-Castro Cuban refugees and former FBI and CIA members maintained by the White House start to go after Ellsberg. Next, they made it their job to derail the Democratic ticket.

The Incident:
The process of derailing the Democratic ticket required breaking into the DNC Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel. The five burglars were caught by Frank Wills, a security guard in the building and taken into custody. The five men were on the payroll of the Committee to Re-elect the President or C.R.P.

After the Incident:
In the meantime, Nixon won the Election 1972 against Democratic candidate George S. McGovern despite to the rumors about the White House’s connection with the break-in. However shortly after his election, greater rumors began to circulate. In May of 1973 the Senate begins to hold hearings for the seven men that were part of the Watergate Scandal.

Nixon’s Slow Demise:
Nixon appoints Archibald Cox as a special prosecutor to the case. Shortly afterwards, John Dean, a White House staff member became the first to admit the President was involved in the scandal. On July 16th it is revealed that Nixon had taped all conversations held in the Oval Offices. Cox suspects the tapes of holding important information about the Watergate Scandal and demands that they be released. Nixon refuses.
On October 20th 1973, Nixon commits the “Saturday Night Massacre,” in which in the processes of trying to fire Cox, Nixon fires Attorney General Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus. Leon Jaworski is appointed as the new Special Prosecutor and asks that Nixon turns over the tapes. Again, Nixon refuses.
In July 1974 Jaworski names Nixon an “un-indicated, co-conspirator” in the obstruction of justice in the scandal. Jaworski went to the Supreme Court, and on July 24th, in a 8 to 0 vote, ordered him to turn over the tapes.
By June 23 Nixon faced impeachment by the House of Representatives. On August 8, 1974, President Richard M. Nixon became the first president to resign. However, Nixon never served jail time.
Gerald Ford takes the presidency.

Significance in History:

  • The Watergate Scandal of 1972 brought presidential and political scandals into the public eye.

  • The scandal lead to the creation many new laws with changes in financing. Presidents no longer record conversations.

  • A new generation of overly aggressive media and journalists followed the incident.

Related Links:


Farnsworth, Malcolm. “Watergate.Info.” 17 June 1997. (accessed May 17, 2010).

U.S” n.d.
(accessed May 17, 2012).

The Wahington Post, “The Washington Post.” n.d.
(accessed May 17, 2010).
(Picture of Watergate Hotel)