HISTORY® has commissioned the definitive original documentary series about one of the biggest criminal conspiracies in modern politics, “Watergate,” produced and directed by Academy Award®-winning director Charles Ferguson (“Inside Job”).
“The Watergate investigation transfixed America and the entire world for two years. Forty-five years later, this epic story continues to fascinate,” said Paul Buccieri, President, A+E Studios and A+E Networks Portfolio Group, parent company of HISTORY. “From the corrupt politicians to the tenacious special prosecutors, judges, and journalists, the scandal is replete with heroes and villains alike. We are thrilled to partner with Charles to bring a fresh perspective on this complex story whose repercussions are still felt today.”
“History has given me an extraordinary opportunity to explore, and tell, a hugely entertaining but also deeply important story that once transfixed America and the world for two years, but which most younger Americans have never seen before. Hugely compelling, Watergate is at once a sobering, frightening demonstration of the fragility of democracy in the face of the abuse of power, and yet at the same time an inspiring demonstration of how courageous people, many of them young, used America’s institutions to prove that everyone, even the President of the United States, must obey the law,” said Ferguson.
On the night of June 17, 1972, a security guard in the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC called the police when he found a door repeatedly taped open. The police discovered five men dressed in business suits who were in the process of installing bugs and photographing documents in the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. Thus began the most explosive scandal in American history – a scandal that brought down the Presidency of Richard M. Nixon and sent over 40 people to jail.
The events of Watergate read like a political thriller – dirty tricks, government surveillance, and sabotage … much of it secretly caught on tape. “Watergate” tells the full story of the conspiracy led by Nixon and his White House staff, and how they were brought to justice. Among the incidents covered in the series is the leaking and publication of the Pentagon Papers; the spreading of false news on behalf of the White House to destroy the candidacy of Senator Edmund Muskie, then the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972; the revelation that Nixon secretly tape-recorded every conversation in the Oval Office; the Supreme Court fight for the tapes following subpoenas by the special prosecutor and both houses of Congress; the infamous Saturday Night Massacre, when Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox, leading to the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus; the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment proceedings; and the final “smoking gun” tape which recorded Nixon conspiring to cover up White House involvement in Watergate just days after the burglary.
It is a story that touches on Vietnam, the unrest of the 1960s, a near World War, the opening of China, and the moment when an unlikely group of heroes from both political parties band together and bring down the White House.
Much of our current political climate began with Watergate, a word everyone has heard, but a story few Americans now understand.
The series will include new interviews with journalists, senior Nixon Administration officials, members of Congress, and prosecutors. This material will be combined with existing archival material including the taped conversations recorded by Nixon and other members of his administration, footage from Congressional hearings, interviews conducted during the investigation, transcripts from criminal trials and Supreme Court arguments other legal proceedings, and written first-person accounts from people involved in the scandal.
Augmenting the archival material is newly sourced information from the Nixon White House tapes. Nuance Communications, a leading voice recognition, language processing and AI firm, is performing, for the first time, advanced computer analysis of the tapes which is expected to reveal previously unknown information.