The Watergate hotel suffered from a somewhat odd break-in on the night of July 17, 1972. Frank Willis, a security guard who was making his rounds, stumbled upon several locks that had been taped up. He called the police, and they discovered five men stumbling through the offices of the Democratic National Committee. They tried to assure the cops that they were merely part of the cleaning crew and just looking for a lost scrub brush, but the authorities weren’t buying. The men were charged with attempted burglary and attempting to intercept telephone records.
When the story first broke, it was deemed largely insignificant. Sure, the burglars had connections to several high ranking politicians, but so did half of the petty crooks on the Eastern seaboard. That didn’t stop Woodward and Bernstein, two investigative reporters who worked for the Washington Post, from following up on the events. At the urging of “Deep Throat” (not to be confused with a popular movie during the time period), they followed the money and discovered a trail of hundred dollar bills that led all the way back to the White House.
It turned out that the Oval Office regularly employed a team of plumbers to fix “leaks” and perform acts of political sabotage. The president denied all involvement, of course, but that didn’t stop from a Senate investigation from being launched. The revelation that Nixon recorded all of his conversations resulted in immediate demands to hand them over, but when he did, there were several obvious gaps at key junctures. The president’s legal team claimed this was just due to an unfortunate accident and that people shouldn’t read too much into it.
Nixon would eventually resign from the presidency, mostly so he wasn’t impeached while in office. Gerald Ford pardoned him soon after, contributing to the widespread feeling of disillusionment among the masses. Far worst than that, though, was the fact that all political scandals were now required to have the word ‘gate’ in their title. Monicagate, Travelgate, Whitewatergate, it didn’t matter whether the incidents had anything to do with a red wooden door on hinges or not; they were forever consigned to the realm of bad political hyphenations.