A book by journalist Phil Stanford asserts that the infamous 1972 break-in at the National Committee headquarters of the Democratic Party was not politically motivated, but sexual. This is new information but not at all upsetting to the investigations of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. The efforts of those journalists were crucial to the awarding of a Pulitzer Prize to their publication, The Washington Post, and helped build momentum toward the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Their investigation aided in unraveling the Watergate burglary cover-up.
However, Stanford’s book, White House Call Girl: The Real Watergate Story, is a bold exploration into why the burglary took place. It throws light on a Washington call girl operation, claiming it was the real reason behind the Watergate break-in.
The story came together for the true crime author and former Oregonian columnist when he was given the “little black book” of mob operative, ex-stripper and Washington madam Erika “Heidi” Rikan. It shows her astounding array of connections; from the criminal underworld to football players to scores of powerful and sleazy politicians in Washington D.C. Stanford is not the first to talk about this side of the story. Jim Hougan, in his 1986 book Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat, and the CIA, asserts that the infamous Watergate break-in was guided chiefly by the CIA.
White House Call Girl agrees with the conclusion of the 1991 book Silent Coup: The Removal of a President. In it, authors Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin say the real reason for the break-in was to hide the embarrassing personal relationship White House Counsel John Dean had with Heidi Rikan. The woman who would later become Dean’s wife, Maureen “Mo” Biner, had been Rikan’s roommate.
G. Gordon Liddy, who at the time believed himself to be the one in charge of planning and executing the Watergate break-in for political reasons, later conceded that “The real ops (operations) officer was (E. Howard) Hunt; and his principal, the man who conceived and commanded the Watergate operation, was John Dean.”
Liddy says that, had Nixon known of Dean’s real reasons for the break-in, he would not have protected the burglars. “He would have flushed the whole thing right at the start. (John) Mitchell would not have gone to jail and Richard Nixon would have retained his presidency.”
It stands to reason that, had Liddy himself known that Dean (and, reportedly, Hunt) had manipulated him, he would have broken his famous “naming no names” silence and thus altered history.
Starting about 1960, Heidi Rikan worked as a courier for some of the biggest gamblers in the world, carrying large sums of cash around the U.S. and overseas. At the time of the Watergate break-in in 1972, she was operating a call-girl / sexual blackmail operation for the mob which, according to Stanford, was running it for one of the U.S. intelligence agencies. He describes the collection of sexual blackmail information as “an age-old tradition” in Washington.
“Heidi had clients in the White House,” said Stanford in an interview with Huffington Post. Her customers also worked for the Democratic National Committee and the U.S. State Department, he said.
Nixon’s in-house attorney, John Dean – a hero for many – does not fare well here. Before the publication of Stanford’s book about Watergate, he sent a threatening, five-page letter from his Beverly Hills address to the book’s publisher, Feral House. Claiming the story as “bogus,” the letter states that “there was no connection whatsoever between Heidi Rikan and Watergate.” The publisher’s attorney replied and, as of this writing, Dean has not pursued the matter.
“Why he [Dean] doesn’t like this call-girl theory,” said Stanford “is that his wife – his then girlfriend – was a very close friend of Heidi Rikan. They were roommates. There are those who make the case that as the counsel for President Nixon, Dean, who was running his own little intelligence operations, was actually the mastermind behind the burglaries in the Watergate. [This] hasn’t been proved or disproved. But we know for sure that once the burglars were caught, he ran the cover up out of the White House. Including paying hush money to the burglars. Trying to get Howard Hunt out of the country.”
Unlike one of Dean’s co-conspirators, the button-mouthed G. Gordon Liddy, Stanford states that “Once it became obvious the cover-up wasn’t going to work, [Dean] cut a deal with the prosecution and, in exchange for a very nice four month sentence, turned in his co-conspirator[s].”
Dean was one of the first White House insiders to fully cooperate with the official investigation and the first to directly implicate President Nixon. Dean swore before the Watergate Committee of the Senate that Nixon was deeply involved in the cover-up of the break-in at the Watergate Hotel and that he and Nixon had discussed the cover-up on at least 35 separate occasions. Dean remains a hated figure in Republican circles as his testimony was largely responsible for the conviction of co-conspirators John Mitchell, H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Robert Mardian.
“There’s an awful lot on the record,” said Stanford. “What I’ve done is take the best of the revisionist research and streamline it.” In his effort to show that the Democratic Party break-in was not political, Stanford’s book reads almost as a detective story.
About Heidi Rikan, he says “Before this – always before this – it’s been possible to dismiss her as sort of a ghost-like figure who may or may not have existed. I’ve talked to a number of people who know [sic] her.”
“The Watergate Special Committee, the prosecutors, accepted the easy explanation that the burglars were going in for political information. That’s the part of the Woodward and Bernstein story, that’s part of the conventional story.”
Stanford pulls no punches in asserting the claims in his book: that the break-in of the headquarters for the Democratic Party at Watergate was not politically motivated. “The chariots of the conventional wisdom here cannot afford to go back here because it will upset the story so much,” said Stanford.
By Gregory Baskin