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Slow Burn Podcast | S1/E1 Watergate: MARTHA (Transcript)

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Simon Says is an automated transcription service. We assist those in the media to swiftly transcribe audio and video files so they can find that meaningful dialogue. We are not associated with Slate Plus or its podcast Slow Burn; we are just big fans. And we highly recommend you listen to it if you can. We have provided the transcript below as a supplement. Enjoy!

Slow Burn Podcast | S1/E1 Watergate: MARTHA (Transcript)
Length: 24 mins

Speakers:
LN — Leon Neyfakh
MM — Martha Mitchell
DF — David Frost
Mal — Male

LN: I’m going to start with a story that you’ve probably never heard. It takes place in June of 1972 just a few days after five men broke into the Watergate office building in Washington D.C.

>: It’s a story about a woman named Martha Mitchell, who was at the time very famous, and whose life was destroyed in large part because of her proximity to the Watergate Conspiracy.

>: Martha’s husband worked in politics. His name was John Mitchell, and in June of 1972, he was in charge of the committee to re-elect President Richard Nixon. Before that, Mitchell had an even bigger job. He was the Attorney General of the United States. Nixon called John Mitchell his most trusted friend and adviser. Others simply called him Deputy President.

>: Historians disagree on what exactly Martha really knew about Watergate, but in the aftermath of the burglary, she was treated by Nixon’s men as someone who knew too much.

MM: And that was the beginning of my being held a prisoner.

LN: Later, Martha would tell David Frost of the BBC everything that happened to her that weekend.

DF: You really were held prisoner?

MM: Literally held a prisoner within four walls.

LN: First, she was kept against her will in a California hotel for days, then she was forcibly tranquilized while being held down in her bed. Later, when she went public, Nixon loyalists tried to discredit her in the press as an unreliable alcoholic. They said she was crazy, a nd to be fair, she must have seemed crazy. But it turned out that she was onto something, something very big.

>: This is Slow Burn, a podcast about Watergate.

Mal: The fascinating story and the strange name Watergate of the gang of wiretappers who were caught in the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.

LN: I’m your host Leon Neyfakh, and over the next two months, I will be your guide to everything you never knew about the greatest American political scandal of the 20th century. What was it like to experience it in real time? And how did it feel to wake up every morning wondering what was going to happen next?

>: Episode 1: Martha.

>: Martha Mitchell, in the early 1970s, was a bona fide celebrity. She was glamorous and outspoken, a high energy Southern belle from Arkansas. She was in her 50s but she was girlish. She wore long, dangly earrings and kept her bright blonde hair in a beehive. She had a reputation for loving fun, for drinking a little too much, and also talking a little too much.

Mal: Martha Mitchell has been on the phone again to the Washington Star News and to UPI […]

MM: Well, I just don’t sit around and do nothing I guess. I’m a doer. I’m always up to something. Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s bad, but I’m always up to something.

LN: Martha was not a typical cabinet wife. In 1970, the New York Times called her the most talked about talkative woman in Washington. She appeared on TV a lot and in those appearances, she came off as zany and friendly even though she was always going on about how much she hated liberals. She was funny about it though, sort of like a ferociously anticommunist Lucille Ball.

>: J Edgar Hoover, the notorious FBI director once said, “She’s one of the most lovable girls I’ve ever met. She says what she thinks and lets the chips fall where they may.” Martha’s garrulousness routinely caused headaches for the administration. One time, she personally called the wives of a bunch of senators and demanded that their husbands commit to supporting one of Nixon’s Supreme Court nominees.

>: To give you a sense of how disruptive this kind of thing could be, Richard Nixon himself once told his Chief of Staff in a meeting “We have to turn off Martha.”

>: Being a gossip was central to Martha’s image. Her nickname was the Mouth of the South, and often, during public appearances, she’d get razzed for it like it was her defining foible.

Read the full transcript here.