Former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, who oversaw the newspaper’s coverage of the Watergate scandal that toppled President Richard Nixon, died on Tuesday at age 93, the paper said.
As executive editor from 1968 until 1991, Bradlee became one of the most important figures in Washington, as well as part of journalism history, while transforming the Post from a staid morning daily into one of the most dynamic and respected publications in the United States.
Bradlee died at his home in Washington of natural causes, the paper said.
Bradlee’s work guiding young reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they traced a 1972 burglary at Democratic Party headquarters back to the Nixon White House has been celebrated from journalism schools to Hollywood.
The Post won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the scandal, which forced Nixon to quit under threat of impeachment in August 1974.
Bradlee gave Woodward and Bernstein license to pursue the scandal and its cover-up vigorously, approving their use of the unidentified “Deep Throat” source, and the newspaper published about 400 articles about Watergate over 28 months.
The Post’s coverage – along with the book and movie about it, “All the President’s Men” – inspired a generation of investigative reporters.
“I think the great lesson of Watergate was probably the stick-tuitiveness of the Post,” Bradlee once told the American Journalism Review. “The fact that we hunkered down and backed the right horse. I think that was a wonderful lesson for publishers, too.”
Bradlee also was in charge of the Post when it suffered a major embarrassment. In 1981, the newspaper returned a Pulitzer won by Janet Cooke after it turned out the reporter’s story about an 8-year-old drug addict was a fabrication.
President Barack Obama gave Bradlee the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
(Reporting by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney; Editing by Sandra Maler and Steve Gorman)