Watergate's 40th anniversary: John Ehrlichman showed me how his loyalty to RMN wasn't appreciated.

  • Blog Post by: Barry ZeVan
  • May 22, 2013 - 8:26 PM

As many readers of these blogs are aware, part of my broadcast career was spent in Washington, D.C., from November, 1974 through November, 1977, on WJLA-TV, ABC's affiliate there. Because D.C. is what it is, many of the world's most powerful and influential people are there, and readily available for television interviews on LOCAL newscasts. That was the case at WJLA-TV, even more so, because our anchorman was a former CBS-TV correspondent named David Schoumacher, who had strong relationships with every power-player imaginable. David had an especially good relationship with most of the Nixon White House's staffers, including John Ehrlichman.

After the Watergate activity had been uncovered and shortly before he was imprisoned, Ehrlichman, President Nixon's Chief Domestic Affairs Advisor, was scheduled to be a guest on our evening newscast. Indictments had already been issued for him and H.R. Haldeman after John Dean exposed them as being the primary sources involved in the Watergate break-in and ancillary activities connected thereto. That evening, John was sitting in a chair in a dark section of the news studio with another couple chairs adjacent. I had some free time prior to the newscast's beginning, thus plopped myself into one of the adjacent chairs and introduced myself. He was very cordial and jovially stated, "You got one Helluva contract". I was surprised, because I didn't know anyone knew about what I had signed, but I thanked him for his enthusiastic remark and for even being a viewer. We then talked for a few minutes, after which he said he'd like to keep in touch and told me how to reach him in the minimum-security prison/federal correction facility in Safford, Arizona.

I corresponded with him only two or three times during the 18 months he served, but after he was freed, he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and invited me to visit if I was ever in that area. Ironically, shortly after his kind invitation, I had some broadcasting-related business in Albuquerque, thus told him I'd be happy if we could meet and "catch-up" in Santa Fe. He agreed.

The punch line is nigh: We met for breakfast at a restaurant called The Pink Adobe, or just "The Pink", as Santa Fe residents called it (and possibly still do). John looked great, although still needing to lose a few pounds. He brought a large book to our breakfast, but didn't telegraph to me what it was, carefully hiding any possible way to identify it. After we finished breakfast, he put the book on the table. It was President Nixon's memoirs, and which Nixon had sent to John while he was still serving time in the Arizona prison. He then opened the book to the frontispiece, and there, STAMPED, was the name Richard M. Nixon. Not even a "To John" or any sort of personal message. Just stamped, Richard M. Nixon. John then said, "And that's what I went to prison for. Not even one additional word, handwritten or otherwise. So much for loyalty and Potomac Fever".

That exchange is one of a few that stick in my memory, but whenever I think of people who offer blind loyalty, no matter what, and are overly-zealous with almost idol-worship of those they serve, I definitely think of John's words, "And that's what I went to prison for".

Thanks for taking the time to read these geezer thoughts and memories. My STAR TRIBUNE  webcasts should resume by the end of June, latest. The forehead surgery scar is vanishing daily.

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