In the era of conspiracy, manipulation and scheming that marked the Nixon administration, an assassination plot might not seem so far-fetched. But could such a plot have come from White House operatives, and could they have been targeting a journalist?
The answer is yes, according to School of Media and Public Affairs professor Mark Feldstein in his new book, “Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of Washington’s Scandal Culture,” due out later this month.
In the book, Feldstein has examined the fierce struggle between Richard Nixon and investigative reporter Jack Anderson, who was once at the top of Nixon’s enemies list.
“I used the battle between Nixon and head reporter Jack Anderson to tell the tale of bribery, blackmail, forgery, surveillance, sexual scandal and even a White House plot to assassinate Anderson, to put together this book,” said Feldstein, a former investigative reporter himself.
Feldstein worked as a research assistant for Anderson in the 1970s, and completed the book after years of sifting through hundreds of Anderson’s personal documents, recorded interviews and notes.
He said he wrote the book on Nixon and Anderson to illustrate the broader conflict between political figures and the press, a conflict he became interested in when he was working on his Ph.D.
“Anderson was an interesting character while I was in college. Ten years ago when I used him as the basis for my dissertation, there was so much material that I just got sucked in,” said Feldstein.
Before Anderson’s death in 2005, Feldstein conducted several interviews with him and persuaded Anderson to allow his archives to be brought to the University.
“I convinced him that GW was the place for his documents and recordings to be,” Feldstein said. “Washington is the heart of the political culture – GW was the best University to preserve and use his archives as such.”
As one of the most renowned figures in investigative journalism, Anderson exposed many political secrets.
“There is a lot of controversy surrounding Anderson’s archives,” Feldstein said. “A few weeks after he died, the FBI wanted to seize the archives from my possession.” Feldstein, with GW supporters, resisted the FBI, who did not have a subpoena to bring Feldstein to court.
“I had been an investigative reporter long enough to not be intimidated into giving away our rights,” he said. He consulted both GW and First Amendment lawyers and testified at hearings in attempts to keep the records. The publicity and pressure from the hearings caused the FBI to back down.
Feldstein completed the book during a sabbatical last year, and has returned to GW to teach classes in SMPA this fall.
A ceremony will be held Sept. 14 celebrating the book’s publication prior to the official release Sept. 28.