G Gordon Liddy, mastermind of the Watergate robbery and host of a radio show after being released from prison, died Tuesday at age 90.
His son, Thomas Liddy, confirmed the death but revealed the cause, apart from saying it was not related to Covid-19.
Liddy, a former FBI agent and Army veteran, was convicted of conspiracy, robbery and wiretapping for his role in the Watergate robbery, which led to the resignation of Richard Nixon. He spent four years and four months in prison, including more than 100 days in solitary confinement.
“I would do it again for my president,” he said years later.
Liddy was outspoken and controversial, both as a political operative under Nixon and as a radio personality. Liddy recommended assassinating political enemies, bombing a group of left-wing pundits and kidnapping war protesters. His White House colleagues ignored such suggestions.
One of his ventures, the raid on the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Building in June 1972, passed. The theft went awry, leading to an investigation, a cover-up, and Nixon’s resignation in 1974.
Liddy was also convicted of conspiracy in the September 1971 robbery of defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. Ellsberg leaked the secret history of the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers.
After his release, Liddy, with his piercing dark eyes, bushy mustache, and shaved head, became a popular, provocative and controversial radio host. He also worked as a security consultant, writer, and actor.
On air, he offered advice on how to kill federal firearms officers, mounted car stickers that read “H20GATE” (Watergate), and disparaged people who cooperated with prosecutors.
Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, George Gordon Battle Liddy was a fragile child who grew up in a neighborhood populated primarily by German-Americans. From friends and a maid who was a German national, Liddy developed a curiosity for Adolf Hitler and was inspired by listening to Hitler’s radio speeches in the 1930s.
“If an entire nation could change, rise from weakness to extraordinary strength, so could one person,” Liddy wrote in Will, his autobiography.
Liddy decided that it was essential to face her fears and overcome them. At age 11, he roasted a rat and ate it to overcome his fear of rats. “From now on, rats might fear me as they feared cats,” he wrote.
After serving a stint in the military, Liddy graduated from Fordham University School of Law and later joined the FBI. He unsuccessfully ran for Congress from New York in 1968 and helped organize Nixon’s presidential campaign in the state.
When Nixon took office, Liddy was appointed special assistant under Secretary of the Treasury David M. Kennedy. Later, Liddy moved to the White House, then to Nixon’s reelection campaign, where his official title was attorney general.
Liddy was the head of a team of Republican operatives known as “the Plumbers,” whose mission was to find leaks of information that would put the Nixon administration to shame. Liddy’s specialties included gathering political intelligence and organizing activities to disrupt or discredit Nixon’s Democratic opponents.
While recruiting a woman to help him carry out one of his plans, Liddy tried to convince her that no one could force him to reveal his identity or anything else against his will. To convince her, Liddy put her hand on a burning lighter. His hand was badly burned. The woman turned down the job.
Liddy became known for such unconventional suggestions as kidnapping the organizers of the anti-war protests and taking them to Mexico during the Republican national convention; murdering investigative journalist Jack Anderson; and bombing the Brookings Institution, a left-wing think tank in Washington where classified documents leaked by Ellsberg were stored.
Liddy and his partner in operations Howard Hunt, along with the five arrested at Watergate, were indicted on federal charges three months after the June 1972 robbery. Hunt and his recruits pleaded guilty in January 1973, and James McCord and Liddy were found guilty. Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974.
After the failed break-in attempt, Liddy recalled telling White House attorney John Dean, “If someone wants to shoot me, just tell me which corner to stand on and I’ll be there, okay?” Dean reportedly responded, “I don’t think we’re there yet, Gordon.”
Liddy claimed in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes that Nixon was “insufficiently ruthless” and should have destroyed the recordings of his conversations with his top aides.
Liddy learned to market his reputation as a fearless, if sometimes overzealous, advocate for conservative causes. Liddy’s syndicated radio show, broadcast from Virginia-based WJFK, was long one of the most popular in the country. He wrote best-selling books, acted on television shows like Miami Vice, was a frequent guest speaker on college campuses, started a private detector franchise, and worked as a security consultant. For a time, he teamed up on the conference circuit with an unlikely partner, the LSD guru of the 1960s, Timothy Leary.
Liddy was always proud of her role in Watergate. He once said, “I’m proud to be the guy who didn’t talk.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism