As we reflect on the lessons of Watergate 50 years later, we hope to call attention to the urgent need for respectful bipartisanship, independent institutions of government, and a societal commitment to the truth.
WASHINGTON (PRWEB) June 08, 2022
On Friday, June 17th, from 5:00 to 7:30pm, the historic Watergate Senate Select Committee, House Judiciary Committee, Special Prosecutor’s staff, and other notable attendees from the press, political offices and the judiciary will gather for a reunion to mark the 50th anniversary of the break-in of the Watergate Hotel. The event will be held in the Kennedy Caucus Room, the site of the original Senate Select Committee hearings in 1973.
“This has been an alarming year for democracy, characterized by Russian aggression abroad and the further erosion of democratic norms here at home,” said reunion host Rufus L. Edmisten, Deputy Chief Counsel for the Watergate Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities and former Attorney General and Secretary of State for North Carolina. “As we reflect on the lessons of Watergate 50 years later, we hope to call attention to the urgent need for respectful bipartisanship, independent institutions of government, and a societal commitment to the truth.”
The reunion will bring together legal counsel, staff, and members of Congress representing the late Senator Sam Ervin’s Watergate Committee, the Special Prosecutor’s Office, the House Impeachment Committee, the FBI, and Judge John Sirica’s office. In attendance will also be members of the press who, along with the investigators and litigators, helped hold the Nixon Administration to account.
Current political leaders and experts will participate in a series of discussions about how history’s most famous investigation in U.S. politics is still influencing current events in D.C. – events including the House investigation of the January 6 insurrection and other recent efforts to safeguard democracy.
“It has been said that our democracy is fragile and its preservation demands constant vigilance. Just as Congress was left picking up the pieces and investigating in the aftermath of Watergate, our House Select Committee is now uncovering the truth behind the lead up to and events on January 6, in an effort to create recommendations so that this never happens again. The parallels between these historic events are fascinating and I’m looking forward to joining the discussion,” said Congresswoman Deborah Ross, who will speak with former Congresswoman and Watergate era House Judiciary Committee member Elizabeth Holtzman in a panel session about January 6, current events and lessons learned from Watergate.
Jill Wine-Banks, author, MSNBC analyst and assistant special prosecutor during Watergate will moderate the opening panel at the event. She said in advance, “The relevance of Watergate to the ongoing January 6 Committee hearings is obvious, but so is its irrelevance. Civil dialogue has been replaced by bitter polarization and propaganda. I hope we can reflect on how we can all play our part to ensure that facts still matter and pay tribute to a time when bipartisan acceptance of them saved our democracy.”
Richard Ben-Veniste, special prosecutor, who will participate in the opening panel discussion said, “In Watergate, all three branches of government and an implacable free press played essential roles in the exposure of corruption at the highest levels. Our democracy requires – now more than ever – that our citizens understand and vigilantly safeguard the rule of law.”
Jim Hamilton, assistant chief counsel to the Senate Select Committee, who will also participate in the opening panel, added, “The Senate Watergate Committee investigation—perhaps the most successful Congressional investigation in our history— demonstrates the good that can come when members of Congress diligently search for truth and partisanship is secondary. Consider these facts: The Senate vote to establish the Committee was 77 to 0. The Committee’s votes to subpoena President Nixon for the White House tapes and then to sue him when he failed to comply were unanimous. The testimony revealing the existence of those tapes was elicited by Republican staffers. The Committee’s lengthy report condemning the Nixon Administration was unanimously adopted. Would that such nonpartisan dedication to fact-finding and the common good existed in Congress today.”
Mark Feldstein, renowned Watergate scholar and professor at the University of Maryland, who will lead a discussion on media accountability for the event, said, “Watergate was a seminal moment in journalism history and a singular demonstration of why a free press is essential in a democracy. Although the news media's role in uncovering the crimes of the Nixon White House can be overstated, the heroic mythology continues to inspire new generations of investigative reporters to hold powerful individuals and institutions to account on behalf of the public. Today, as journalists are attacked as ‘enemies of the people’ and the very notion of truth itself is under assault, Watergate is a crucial reminder that courageous and independent journalism is critical to a free and open society.”
James “Jay” Hamilton, author and director of the Stanford Journalism Program, reflected on Watergate’s legacy ahead of the event too, saying, “Accountability reporting, though often hard to support via the marketplace, can change lives and laws when wrongdoing is revealed. For five decades Watergate has inspired reporters to probe how public and private institutions operate, to pierce the veil of hidden actions and hidden information, and expose what happens when delegated powers are abused. Revisiting the Watergate era is a chance to remember how reporters willing to make calls, knock on doors, and track down documents can hold even the highest officials accountable.”
Connie Chung, renowned journalist during the Watergate years and beyond, commented on Watergate ahead of the event too, saying, “Truth. Democracy. Integrity. They triumphed during Watergate. I look at it as a time of glory for our great country and our precious freedom of the press. What has become of those pillars? It is challenging for those of us who want to remain observers and only report. But we are at a critical moment. The lesson of Watergate is we cannot stand back and watch from the sidelines. Today, together, we must urge our citizens to restore all we have lost.”
Gordon Freedman, an education leader and former staffer who organized a 45th reunion to coincide with the early days of the Russia investigations of President Trump, said, “Five years later, Watergate is being rewritten all over again, but now at a much deeper, more significant level that is challenging the very roots of the U.S. democratic system. A fuse was lit by the Nixon Administration a half-century ago that leads directly to the politics of today. It’s more urgent than ever that we explore both the historic and ongoing Watergate.”
Formal agenda is as follows:
5:00-5:45pm – Reunion Reception
5:45-5:50pm – Opening Remarks, Rufus L. Edmisten (Deputy Chief Counsel for the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities and former Attorney General and Secretary of State for North Carolina)
5:50-6:00pm – Gene Boyce (Lead Investigator and Associate Counsel for the Select Committee), reflections on discovering the Nixon tapes
6:05-6:30pm – Jill Wine-Banks (Assistant Special Prosecutor), Richard Ben-Veniste (Special Prosecutor), Francis O’Brien (Chief of Staff to House Judiciary Committee Chair Peter Rodino), and Jim Hamilton (Assistant Chief Counsel to the Senate Select Committee) to discuss safeguards against presidential abuses of power and other lessons learned from Watergate
6:35-6:55pm – Mark Feldstein (Richard Eaton Chair on Broadcast Journalism at the University of Maryland) and Lawrence Meyer (former reporter and editor at the Washington Post) to analyze journalism's role in Watergate and discuss the changing watchdog role of the news media then and now
7:00-7:25pm – Elizabeth Holtzman (former U.S. Congresswoman and House Judiciary Committee member) and Congresswoman Deborah Ross (North Carolina, 2nd Congressional District) to discuss Watergate’s implications for the January 6 Committee Investigation and other recent events including impeachments
Never-released photos from an extensive archive of Senate Watergate Committee life behind the scenes are available to select media for approved editorial use. Please contact to see images.