Woodward and Bernstein confirm that ex-FBI official W. Mark Felt, now 91, was their source

By Stephen M. Silverman and Jane Podesta
Updated May 31, 2005 12:00 PM
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One of the great mysteries of the 1970s is solved: the identity of “Deep Throat,” the source who informed on the Richard Nixon White House to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Former FBI official W. Mark Felt, now 91, has stepped forward to tell Vanity Fair magazine that he is the informant who helped bring down the administration with inside information on the 1972 break-in of the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. At the time, Felt was the Bureau’s No. 2 man investigating Watergate.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Woodward and Bernstein reversed their decades-old vow to keep Deep Throat’s identity a secret until his or her death, and confirmed Felt’s claims. “W. Mark Felt was ‘Deep Throat’ and helped us immeasurably in our Watergate coverage. However, as the record shows, many other sources and officials assisted us and other reporters for the hundreds of stories that were written in The Washington Post about Watergate.”

Felt, who lives in Santa Rosa, Calif., is said to be in poor mental and physical health because of a stroke, the Associated Press reports. Though his family did not immediately make him available for comment, Felt did come to the door of his home and wave to reporters.

On Tuesday Felt’s grandson, Nick Jones, read a statement to the news media calling Felt a hero. “The family believes that my grandfather, Mark Felt Sr., is a great American hero who went well above and beyond the call of duty at much risk to himself to save his country from a horrible injustice.” Jones said. “We all sincerely hope the country will see him this way as well.”

Former Nixon White House chief of staff, Gen. Alexander Haig, who was rumored to have been Deep Throat himself at times, told PEOPLE that the outing of Felt will put the mystery to rest – but the reaction to his admission will be mixed. “There will be those who think he (Felt) is a hero. Others in the department who were taught never to leak things will take another point of view. I’m not going to throw any stones or roses.”

Ben Bradlee, the top editor at The Washington Post during the Watergate era, called the naming of Felt: “the last secret” of the story.

Besides riveting the nation during the summer of 1974, the story of the break-in by members of Nixon’s inner circle (whose actions, once revealed, forced the resignation of the president) formed the basis of Woodward and Bernstein’s 1974 bestseller All The President’s Men. That, in turn, was made into the 1976 Oscar-winning movie starring Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein. Hal Holbrook played Deep Throat.

For more than 30 years, at the heart of the story was the question, now answered: Who was Deep Throat.