No, not those tapes.
A little over two weeks ago I posted about one of the webpages of the groundbreaking and very informative nixontapes.org site run by Luke Nichter, an assistant professor of history at Tarleton State University in Texas. This page, at the time I posted, included links to two audio files in which John W. Dean III, White House counsel during the Nixon administration, was featured.
In one file, from a recording of a telephone conversation made in 1989, Dean could be heard explaining that when writing his book about Watergate, Blind Ambition, “I never actually went back and re-read my [Senate Watergate Committee] testimony.” This was by way of explaining why some passages in the book described events in a way somewhat different from what Dean told the Committee two years earlier. A second audio file was an excerpt from a recording made of Dean’s appearance last month at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, to promote the reissue (with a lengthy new afterword) of Blind Ambition.
However, if anyone goes to that part of nixontapes.org now, he or she will find a notice from Professor Nichter stating that these sound files have been removed as a result of a notice from Dean threatening legal action if they remained on the site. (However, the 1989 conversation can still be heard at watergate.com, the site founded by Silent Coup co-author Len Colodny.)
An article at FoxNews.com by Joseph Abrams delineates the situation further. “I merely wanted to bring these contradictions to light and thought I was doing a service, but Dean was absolutely mortified when he found out that I had these materials,” Professor Nichter explains, and notes that his modestly funded site does not have the resources to contest Dean in court.
Indeed, Dean’s previous legal actions against the authors and publisher of Silent Coup and Watergate figure-turned-radio host G. Gordon Liddy have made some journalists nervous. Jim Hougan, whose 1984 book Secret Agenda was the first work to raise substantial questions about Dean’s role in Watergate, refused to comment to Abrams at all about Dean.
But Fox News Washington correspondent James Rosen, author of the 2008 biography of John Mitchell The Strong Man, which contains the most meticulously documented and groundbreaking research into Dean’s role in Watergate to see print thus far, has not been cowed. He told Abrams:
“My book speaks for itself, and I think it’s noteworthy that Dean has entirely avoided engaging its substance. Dean himself is well aware that his historical reputation has suffered enormously in the last two decades, and so he resorts to frivolous litigation and bullying tactics to rehabilitate himself. Not since Albert Speer [Hitler’s architectural and technological mastermind] has a historical figure so assiduously used his post-prison writings to muddy and distort the historical record of the events in which he was culpable.”
Although Dean was one of the younger figures to be involved in the Watergate scandal, he is 70 now, so one wonders for how much longer his story of what happened will continue to go unchallenged by many journalists and historians.