Mark Felt, the Associate Director of the FBI who became known as "Deep Throat" during the Watergate scandal, has seen a spike in pop-culture references as President Donald Trump's Russia scandal develops. But a recent report revealed that Felt also had a perk he was fighting for with Watergate.


Famed Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein painted Felt as "an honorable, selfless whistleblower" seeking to expose "lawlessness rampant in the [Richard] Nixon White House." However, Max Holland, writing for Politico Magazine, explained that Felt was hoping for a promotion more than he was hoping to protect democracy. Nixon's resignation wasn't part of Felt's plan, he assumed Nixon would stay in office and Felt hoped to become director of the FBI.

Using documents, government records and Nixon's recordings from the early days of the Watergate break-in investigation, researches believe Felt's motives were more duplicitous than heroic.

By May 1972, 77-year-old FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was celebrating 48 years leading the bureau. The FBI was riddled with those seeking the public profile that Hoover had as a lawman. Behind closed doors, many were furious with Hoover for not stepping down when he turned 70. Two previous presidents feared the FBI director too much to make waves. But William C. Sullivan seemed to have the inside track at the time and Hoover treated him like the heir of a throne. Sullivan's biggest flaw, however, was his impatience.

It wasn't long before Sullivan was leaking insider information about Hoover to journalists. When Hoover found out, he changed the locks on Sullivan's office door while the man was away on leave. When Sullivan returned, he was so furious he challenged Felt to a fight. Felt became the one that was next in line to replace Hoover, despite his lack of popularity in the bureau. His colleagues frequently referred to him as the “White Rat.”

Others describe Felt's behavior self-serving with a kind of faux humility, only there to protect himself from Hoover discovering his ambition.

“If you wanted to ruin somebody’s career in the FBI, all you had to do [was] leak it to somebody in the press that so-and-so [was] being groomed as Hoover’s successor,” a former FBI agent recalled.

When Hoover finally died, mourners were shocked to see the frail old man, whose dye had been washed from his hair and eyebrows. But Nixon didn't appoint Felt, he was far too concerned about Senate confirmation and his upcoming election. He appointed Assistant Attorney General L. Patrick Gray to serve as acting director while he searched for the correct replacement. If Gray did well, he was told it was his. The FBI got wind of the fact that Nixon was looking for someone outside the bureau to fill the post. Frustrated, many executives retired. Felt had to find a way to convince Nixon to choose an insider, according to a 1979 memoir.