What was the Legacy of the Watergate Scandal?
On the 50th anniversary of Watergate we ask four historians about its afterlife – beyond the impressively versatile -gate suffix.
‘“Watergate” has been synonymous with criminal wrongdoing’
Clodagh Harrington, Associate Professor in American Politics at De Montfort University
For the past half century, the term ‘Watergate’ has been synonymous with criminal wrongdoing at the highest level of government. Of its multi-faceted legacy, there are perhaps three strands that remain evident to this day. First, the scandal resulted in the evolution of a permanently adversarial media. Two Washington Post investigative journalists became the poster boys for speaking truth to power. As Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bravely held a corrupt Executive to account when others failed to act, they brought unparalleled kudos to their profession. Over time, the news media style evolved from the admirable watchdog to confrontational junk yard dog role.