By Paul Harris/Washington
It’s been 40 years since the Watergate break-in, the scandal that set the standard for all political scandals to come. Now a new book reveals a heretofore unknown story of a whistleblower who has a connection to Variety.
Don Fulsom, the author of the recently published “Nixon’s Darkest Secrets: The Inside Story of America’s Most Troubled President” (St. Martin’s Press), includes the tale of Tom Girard, who in 1972 was assistant press secretary for the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP), which was behind the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office building. Girard later covered TV and cable for Variety in the 1980s.
Fulsom, a White House correspondent for UPI Audio, says Girard tipped him off of the connection of the Watergate break-in to the Nixon re-election campaign before it was uncovered by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
“Tom is one of the unsung heroes of Watergate; he is the original Watergate whistleblower,” Fulsom says.
Girard, who died in 2004, was a popular reporter at Variety who quickly earned a reputation for his no-nonsense coverage of the lengthy trial of the libel suit filed against CBS by Gen. William C. Westmoreland.
In the book’s introduction, Fulsom writes: “At 8 a.m. on June 18, 1972, I was at the Key Biscayne Hotel covering President Nixon on one of his frequent weekends in the Florida-Bahamas sunshine with Charles “Bebe” Rebozo, and I got a call from Washington. The caller was Tom Girard, a close buddy, a former radio reporter who had gone on to become the deputy press secretary for CREEP, the Committee to Re-elect the President.
“Tom had just read the early edition of the Washington Post, in which there had been a photo of the five Watergate burglars along with their names. ‘The guy they’re identifying as Edward Martin is not Edward Martin,’ Tom told me. ‘That’s James McCord. … McCord is the top security man for CREEP, and he’s a former CIA agent who’s in charge of security for the CIA.’
“My story linking CREEP to the Watergate burglary was broadcast to UPI Audio’s 1,200 radio clients at 10:10 a.m. It was one of those ‘reliable source’ stories that would be very hard to trace.”
Fulsom says the episode and other questionable Nixon campaign tactics prompted the principled Girard to resign after only a few months in the post. He says Girard also wanted to leak the truth to a trusted colleague who would carefully protect his identity.
Sandwiched around Girard’s short-lived tenure with CREEP were stints as a radio newsman for the D.C. bureaus of Metromedia and Westinghouse Broadcasting. While in D.C., he helped create and produced the “Close Up” series on the C-SPAN cable network.
White House photo