G. Gordon Liddy, Chief Operative Behind Watergate Scandal, Dies At 90
G. Gordon Liddy, the Republican adviser who was convicted for his role in the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon, died on Tuesday.
The 90-year-old died at his daughter's house in Virginia, his son Thomas P. Liddy told The Associated Press. He did not give a cause of death.
Liddy was convicted in 1973 and sentenced to 20 years in jail for conspiracy, burglary and illegally wiretapping the Democratic Party's headquarters at the Watergate office complex. He served as Nixon's general counsel on his reelection committee at the time.
Liddy was part of a small group of operatives known as the "White House plumbers," whose mission was to identify anyone who had leaked information that made the Nixon administration look bad.
Prior to the Watergate break-in, he helped to illegally enter the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist. Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, proving that the Johnson administration had lied to the public about the military's role in the Vietnam War.
Despite spending more than four years in prison for his Watergate crimes, including more than 100 days in solitary confinement, he later said, "I'd do it again for my president."
He refused to testify during the Watergate hearings as well as his own trial, later tellingthe Los Angeles Times, "My father didn't raise a snitch or a rat."
President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, commuted Liddy's sentence, and he was released after serving 52 months in prison.
Liddy was born in Hoboken, N.J., on Nov. 30, 1930. He described himself as a frail child who was deeply fearful.
In a 1980 interviewwith NPR's Fresh Air host Terry Gross to promote his autobiography, Will, Liddy explained his unorthodox attempts to conquer his fears as a child and into adulthood.
He said that to overcome his fear of rats he emulated the traditions of Native American and Zulu tribes, who would "consume the heart, the brains and the genitalia" of their enemies.
"I cooked and consumed part of the rat. And thereafter, I had no fear of rats," he claimed.
Liddy served in the Army and earned a law degree from Fordham University Law School before joining the FBI. He ran for a New York congressional seat, but after he lost the race, Liddy joined the U.S. Treasury Department and eventually the White House.
While he had taken great pride in remaining silent throughout the Watergate investigation and his own criminal trial, Liddy seemed to relish the notoriety the scandal brought him and he delighted in talking about it.
During the early 1990s, when he hosted one of the nation's most popular conservative talk shows, Liddy openly discussed the botched burglary that led Nixon to resign in disgrace — absent any remorse except that he was caught.
He also took on numerous TV roles, acting as a villain in popular shows, including Miami Vice. And he became a regular on the college speaking circuit alongside LSD evangelist Timothy Leary.
Liddy is survived by five children.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.