Before some bumbling “plumbers” in Watergate gave him much bigger headaches, newspaperman Jack Anderson was one of the biggest thorns in Richard Nixon’s side. The columnist was, according to a new book by Mark Feldstein, akin to the Wikileaks of his day, publishing state secrets in his syndicated column and giving Nixon fits. In Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson and the Rise of Washington’s Scandal Culture, Feldstein tells of planned dirty tricks against Anderson. Dirty tricks that could have included LSD and poison:
Feldstein also has uncovered new evidence that documents one of the more outrageous schemes of the Nixon presidency: a plot to assassinate Anderson by either putting poison in his medicine cabinet or exposing him to a “massive dose” of LSD by smearing it on the steering wheel of his car. While the aborted scheme to murder Anderson has been reported – and disputed – before, Feldstein found new corroboration: A confession before his death by ex-White House “plumber” Howard Hunt.
The Nixon/Anderson conflict really kicked into high gear when Anderson publicized documents that revealed Nixon was arming Pakistan during that country’s war with India. The U.S. was supposedly neutral in the conflict. White House tapes captured Nixon’s response to Anderson blowing the whistle: “So listen, the day after the election, win or lose, we’ve got to do something with this son of a bitch.”
Even more bizarre–Nixon (and his men) were convinced Anderson, a Mormon, was part of a larger Mormon conspiracy. As NBC’s Michael Isikoff notes in his article about Feldstein’s book, there was a grain of truth in Nixon’s Mormon paranoia. A Mormon military aide leaked the Indo-Pakistani documents to Anderson.
Howard Hunt, Gordon Liddy and Chuck Colson were scheming to take Anderson down in various baroque ways before a larger crisis took all their attention. According to Howard Hunt, Colson wanted to put a “drug-laden pill in a bottle that Anderson was taking medicine from.” Gordon Liddy was more creative. Hunt said Liddy “had an idea that that by wiping poison on a man’s wrist that could kill him that way.”
Watergate may have been one of the best things to happen to Jack Anderson–who outlived Nixon by 11 years, in the end.