G. Gordon Liddy became a beloved conservative talk radio host for 20 years after serving time in prison for organizing a break-in of Democrat headquarters at the Watergate in 1972. His show would air in the mornings here in Washington on WJFK, and he would entertain by interviewing conservatives (including us at the MRC) and reading news stories and opinion pieces from the Washington Times. I warmly remember how we talked for nearly an hour in 1996 about my book Pattern of Deception.
When he died on Tuesday, we could guess that Liddy's obituary headlines would be more negative than say, communist dictator Fidel Castro's in 2016. We were not wrong.
I first noticed it scrolling through Twitter with the Los Angeles Times.
Your @latimes obit headlines:— Tim Graham (@TimJGraham) March 31, 2021
"G. Gordon Liddy, unrepentant Watergate burglar who became talk show host, dies" https://t.co/9KmPxZvfB9
"Fidel Castro dead at 90: The revolutionary icon’s influence was felt far beyond Cuba"https://t.co/qYe2a6B6V8
"Unrepentant burglar." Now does anyone think a liberal newspaper will lead its Bill Clinton obituary with "Unrepentant sexual harasser"? Or will those words lead the Al Franken obituary headline? Franken had a talk radio show for a while. No chance.
On April 1, the New York Times headline in the paper was "G. Gordon Liddy, Watergate Scandal’s Remorseless Ringleader, Dies at 90."
In 2016, the New York Times headline read, “A Revolutionary Who Defied the U.S. and Held Cuba In His Thrall.” Anthony DePalma of the Times began by calling Castro a “fiery apostle of revolution” who “defied the United States for nearly half a century.”
The Washington Post headline for Castro was slightly more balanced: “Revolutionary remade Cuba: Dictator who defied U.S. was loathed, beloved.” But Kevin Sullivan and J.Y. Smith oozed that Castro was “a romantic figure in olive-drab fatigues and combat boots, chomping monstrous cigars through a bushy black beard,” who “became a spiritual beacon for the world’s political far left.”
The Post headline for Liddy was more restrained: "G. Gordon Liddy, undercover operative convicted in Watergate scandal, dies at 90." But a photo montage was headlined "G. Gordon Liddy, infamous operative in the Watergate break-in, dies at 90."
On the front of Friday's Style section, Post feature writer Dan Zak called Liddy a "super-klutz." He cracked "As with so many self-professed paragons of strategy and masculinity, the man who advertised himself routinely as 'virile, vigorous and potent' was most famous for underperforming. He was brilliant at scheming but lousy at pulling off schemes... Liddy may have died Tuesday at 90, but he lives on in any number of characters afflicting our politics with their theatrical machismo or numbskulled shenanigans."
This is comical, since Zak is best-known for exhaustively glorifying the "numbskulled shenanigans" of three radical pacifists who theatrically broke into the Oak Ridge nuclear lab and threw blood at the walls.
In 2016, the PBS NewsHour used the bland headline "Fidel Castro, who led Cuba for a half-century, dies at 90."
On Wednesday, their headline was "Looking back at the life of the unapologetic criminal behind Watergate, G. Gordon Liddy."
This comes naturally since PBS came into its own running the Watergate hearings live during the day and then replaying them at night. They don't do the same when congressional Republicans are investigating Democrat scandals.