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Wallowing in Watergate 50 years later: A political quiz

Fifty years later, the Watergate scandal is remembered in broad strokes

By MIKE FEINSILBER, Associated Press
Published: June 19, 2022, 10:10am
2 Photos
FILE - President Richard Nixon tells a group of Republican campaign contributors, he will get to the bottom of the Watergate scandal during a speech on May 9, 1973 in Washington.
FILE - President Richard Nixon tells a group of Republican campaign contributors, he will get to the bottom of the Watergate scandal during a speech on May 9, 1973 in Washington. (AP Photo/John Duricka, File) Photo Gallery

WASHINGTON — For half a century, every major Washington scandal started with some form of this question: Is this another Watergate?

Watergate spawned an all-purpose suffix. If “gate” were appended to misdeeds it was controversy of first rank.

Watergate brought down a president. It reordered American politics, at least for a time. It begot far-reaching reforms, many now eroded. It seeded ever greater mistrust in government.

Until a June night 50 years ago, Watergate meant little more than an apartment complex, an office building and a bandshell at the edge of the Potomac where military bands played the music of John Philip Sousa on warm summer evenings.

Then, in the Watergate office building, where the Democratic National Committee maintained its headquarters, came a burglary. Then a cover-up. Then the unravelling of a presidency. “Watergate” forever stands for political corruption and the shaming of Richard M. Nixon.

Nixon tried to dismiss it all. “Let others wallow in Watergate,” he said in the Rose Garden in July 1973. “We are going to do our job.” That didn’t work.

On the 50th anniversary of the events that precipitated Nixon’s downfall, acknowledged just as a Watergate-style inquiry is investigating another former president, here’s a quiz to see how well you know the story.

Wallow away.


On June 17, 1972, Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate office building in Washington, D.C., were entered by burglars wearing (1) —— gloves. Their pockets were stuffed with (2) ——- bills. They were arrested and subsequently identified with Nixon’s reelection committee, known by the acronym CREEP, which stood for (3) ———.

The president’s press secretary called it a (4) —— burglary attempt. But two reporters for (5) ——– dug around and established a link between the burglars and the White House.

Six days after the burglary, the Republican president agreed with a plan to cover up White House involvement. Seven men pleaded guilty or were convicted of the burglary and one of them, (6) —-—, made demands of the White House for hush money.

Nixon was told it could cost (7) —–—. Some of the participants in the cover-up became afraid and talked to (8) ——-—. A Senate committee began an investigation, and it was revealed that Nixon secretly recorded all his conversations in the White House.

Thus began a legal tug-of-war involving the White House, the Senate and the courts for the tapes. When Prosecutor Archibald Cox pressed too hard, Nixon ordered him (9) ——- in what became known as the (10) ———.

Finally, the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to yield the tapes. A House committee recommended that he be (11) ———, and it looked like that would happen when Nixon (12) ———. He flew off to his villa in (13) ———, California. (14) ——- became president and later pardoned Nixon.


1. surgical

2. $100

3. Committee for the Re-election of the President, often referred to as Committee to Re-elect the President

4. third-rate

5. The Washington Post

6. E. Howard Hunt

7. $ 1 million

8. federal prosecutors

9. fired

10. Saturday Night Massacre

11. impeached

12. resigned

13. San Clemente

14. Gerald R. Ford


The true Watergate connoisseur needs only a date to recall a significant event. The Watergate break-in was on June 17, 1972. Richard Nixon was pardoned Sept. 8, 1974. Now it’s up to you to arrange the following events in chronological order and then pair them with the dates on which they occurred.


1. Nixon resigns after announcing his decision the night before.

2. The Saturday Night Massacre.

3. Testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee reveals that all of Nixon’s White House conversations were taped.

4. Nixon aides H.R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman resign. Presidential counsel John Dean is fired.

5. Seven men are indicted for the Watergate break-in.

6. The Supreme Court rules Nixon must give up tapes that are needed as evidence in the trial of his aides.

7. Nixon and H.R. Haldeman discuss Watergate. Later, prosecutors find an 18-minute gap in the tape of that conversation.

8. The Committee on the Judiciary in the House of Representatives votes 27 to 11 to recommend Nixon’s impeachment.


A. June 20, 1972

B. Sept. 15, 1972

C. April 30, 1973

D. July 16, 1973

E. Oct. 20, 1973

F. July 24, 1974

G. July 27, 1974

H. Aug. 9, 1974


1. H.

2. E.

3. D.

4. C.

5. B.

6. F.

7. A.

8. G.


Here are some words that cropped up often in Watergate.

Pick the right meaning (more than one may be correct).

1. “Gemstone” referred to:

a. The payoff to the Watergate burglars.

b. The radioed signal that the coast was clear for the Watergate burglars.

c. The code name for a confidential wiretap operation.

2. “Smoking gun” was:

a. The Secret Service code name for Ron Ziegler.

b. Nixon’s gift to the Shah of Iran.

c. The taped conversation that implicated Nixon in the cover-up from the start.

d. The code name for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s informant.

3. The “Huston Plan” was:

a. A proposal for canceling the 1972 election.

b. The plan to hold the 1972 GOP convention in Houston.

c. The Nixon reelection committee’s strategy for winning.

d. A proposal for domestic surveillance and break-ins to keep tabs on radicals.

4. The White House plumbers were:

a. A White House group formed to investigate leaks.

b. A team that consisted of G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt and others.

c. A group of men who burglarized the Beverly Hills office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist.

d. An undercover team that operated out of Room 16 in the basement of the Old Executive Office Building.


1. c.

2. c.

3. d. (The plan was drafted by White House aide Tom Huston.)

4. a, b, c and d.


1. How many people were charged with a Watergate-related crime?

a. 7

b. 25

c. 69

d. 106

2. How many people pleaded guilty?

a. 3

b. 13

c. 25

d. 48

3. How many people were convicted after a trial?

a. 4

b. 13

c. 33

d. 42

4. How many people served time?

a. 7

b. 14

c. 25

d. 43

5. How many people only paid fines?

a. 5

b. 7

c. 16

d. 22


1. c. (69)

2. d. (48)

3. b. (13)

4. c (25)

5. d. (22)


The men who went to prison for Watergate crimes served a total of more than 22 years. Of the top five, pick the one who served the longest.

1. Burglary mastermind G. Gordon Liddy.

2. His chief lieutenant, E. Howard Hunt.

3. The attorney general, John N. Mitchell.

4. The White House chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman.

5. White House domestic adviser John D. Ehrlichman.


Liddy, convicted in the Watergate burglary, was also convicted in the break-in at the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, for refusing to testify before a congressional committee and a federal grand jury. He was sentenced to serve a term of six years and eight months to 20 years. His sentence was commuted to a maximum of eight years by President Jimmy Carter, and he actually served 52 months.


1. Who blamed a “sinister force” for the 18 minute tape gap?

a. Alexander Butterfield

b. Alexander Haig

c. Alexander Knox

2. Who is credited with coining the term “modified limited hangout” for partial and innocuous Watergate disclosures intended to satisfy investigators’ curiosity?

a. John Ehrlichman

b. John Dean

c. John Mitchell

3. Who kept asking, “What did the president know and when did he know it?”

a. Howard Hunt

b. Howard Smith

c. Howard Baker

4. Who suggested letting acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray twist “slowly, slowly in the wind?”

a. Presidential valet Manolo Sanchez

b. Presidential press secretary Ronald Ziegler

c. Presidential adviser John Ehrlichman


1. b. Haig.

2. a. Ehrlichman is credited, but he says someone else said it.

3. c. Howard Baker.

4. c. Ehrlichman, who said he got the phrase from Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.”


In this list, find the eight items that have some connection with Watergate. Extra credit if you can remember what the connection is.

1. A bus token.

2. A piece of tape.

3. An audio tape test.

4. A pill bottle with a childproof cap.

5. A black cat.

6. A red wig.

7. A flannel nightgown.

8. An abstract painting in a museum.

9. A black notebook with Howard Hunt’s name in it.

10. A jimmied file cabinet in California.

11. A brown paper lunch bag.

12. A flower pot.


1. No connection.

2. The tape was used to block the latch in the basement entrance of the Watergate office building.

3. The test was ordered by Judge John Sirica in a failed effort to see what caused the erasure of 18 minutes of crucial taped Watergate conversation between Nixon and H.R. Haldeman.

4. The pill bottle is what Nixon was too undexterous to open, according to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s book, “The Final Days.”

5. No connection.

6. The wig was part of the disguise that Hunt put on when he flew to Denver to interview Dita Beard, an ITT lobbyist.

7. No connection.

8. No connection.

9. The notebook was found on one of the burglars and started the trail that led eventually to Nixon’s involvement.

10. The cabinet in the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist was jimmied by White House agents looking for dirt on Ellsberg.

11. The paper bag served as the inventory sheet on which Secret Service agents kept track of Nixon’s secret tapes as they were checked out of their subterranean warren.

12. The flower pot, which had a red flag stuck in it, belonged to Woodward. He would reposition it on his apartment balcony to signal that he needed to contact his anonymous source, Deep Throat.


Here are some people whose names cropped up in Watergate. Match their names with the descriptions.


1. Fred Buzhardt

2. Virgilio Gonzalez

3. George McGovern

4. Rose Mary Woods

5. Fred Thompson

6. Donald Segretti

7. Dwight Chapin

8. Matthew Byrne

9. Henry Petersen

10. Bebe Rebozo

11. Steve Bull

12. Anthony Ulasewicz

13. Charles Colson.


A. Nixon’s best friend.

B. Nixon’s private secretary, who took blame for 4-5 minutes of the 18-minute tape gap.

C. He distributed hush money to the Watergate burglars.

D. The Nixon assistant who cued up tapes for the president to listen to.

E. A dirty trickster.

F. The White House aide who recruited the dirty trickster.

G. Nixon’s opponent in the 1972 election.

H. The assistant attorney general who discussed Watergate with Nixon.

I. The White House lawyer who discovered the 18 -minute tape gap.

J. The White House aide who later got religion.

K. Counsel to the Republican minority on the Senate Watergate Committee; he became a Republican senator from Tennessee.

L. One of the burglars arrested inside the Watergate.

M. The federal judge who, while he presided over the Ellsberg-Pentagon Papers trial, was offered the post of FBI director.


1. I.

2. L.

3. G.

4. B.

5. K.

6. E.

7. F.

8. M.

9. H.

10. A.

11. D.

12. C.

13. J.


1. Nixon was named as a Watergate conspirator by a grand jury but was not indicted.

2. John Dean borrowed money from a White House safe to pay for his honeymoon.

3. Spiro Agnew resigned as vice president because of his involvement in Watergate.

4. Nixon and Henry Kissinger knelt in prayer together after the president decided to resign.

5. The burglars had broken into Democratic headquarters once before the time they were caught.

6. G. Gordon Liddy offered to have himself shot to take the Watergate heat off the White House.

7. One of the Watergate burglars was on a CIA retainer when he was arrested.

8. Herbert Kalmbach and Richard Kleindienst were lawyers for the Nixon re-election committee.

9. The “milk fund” was used to pay off the Watergate burglars.

10. Nixon never publicly discussed Watergate until the night he resigned.

11. Nixon was the first president to resign his office.


1. True. The president was one of 18 unindicted co-conspirators.

2. True. He borrowed $ 4,850 and paid it back.

3. False. He resigned Oct. 10, 1973, rather than contest charges that he took payoffs while governor of Maryland and as vice president.

4. True. In his memoirs, Nixon said, “I asked him to pray with me … and we knelt.”

5. True. They had planted some bugs on Memorial Day weekend. One of them didn’t work and that’s one reason they had come back.

6. True. It was one of the reasons Nixon and others in the White House considered him to be irrational.

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7. True. Eugenio Martinez, an anti-Castro Cuban, was receiving checks regularly.

8. False. Kalmbach was Nixon’s personal lawyer and a fund-raiser; Kleindienst followed John Mitchell as attorney general.

9. False. It was made up of contributions from the dairy industry to Nixon’s re-election campaign.

10. False. The subject came up at many press conferences and in his public addresses, beginning with a news conference five days after the burglary.

11. True. The first and only.


Martha Mitchell, Maureen Dean, Pat Nixon and Dorothy Hunt were married to men who, one way or another, were connected to Watergate.

Which one:

1. Sat by while her husband testified for five days in a televised Watergate hearing?

2. Complained that a former FBI man held her down while a doctor drugged her in a California motel by jabbing a needle into her backside?

3. Was killed in a plane crash while carrying $10,000 in cash?

4. Was known as Thelma Ryan as a girl?


1. Mrs. Dean

2. Mrs. Mitchell

3. Mrs. Hunt

4. Mrs. Nixon, whose nickname was Pat.


Enough of the creampuff questions. Time to play hardball.

1. The political espionage plan that included the Watergate break-in was presented three times by G. Gordon Liddy to whom before it was approved? Liddy asked first for $1 million; how much was finally OK’d?

2. Who said he had to carry so much telephone change to make arrangements for delivery of hush money that “I had a bus guy’s coin changer?”

3. Name the seven senators on the Senate Watergate Committee and identify their states and parties.

4. Name the chief prosecutor at the original Watergate trial.

5. A lookout was supposed to warn the Watergate burglars if anything went awry. Name the lookout and the hotel across from the Watergate where he was posted.

6. What Watergate character was nicknamed “The Writer” because he had written more than 40 spy novels?

7. Hours after the Watergate burglars were arrested, G. Gordon Liddy failed to persuade Attorney General Richard Kleindienst to intercede to have them released. Where did he find Kleindienst?

8. Who disclosed the existence of the White House taping system?

9. Nixon said he was advised to tape his White House conversations by whom?

10. Who was Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist?

11. Archibald Cox was the first of four special Watergate prosecutors. Who were the others?

12. Where was Richard Nixon:

(a) on the day of the Watergate burglary?

(b) when he told Haldeman and Ehrlichman they were fired?

(c) when Dean told him about the cancer on the presidency?

(d) when the Supreme Court ordered him to give up his tapes?

(e) when Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as his successor?


1. Attorney General John Mitchell; $250,000.

2. Anthony Ulasewicz.

3. Chairman Sam J. Ervin Jr., D-N.C.; Howard H. Baker Jr., R-Tenn.; Herman E. Talmadge, D-Ga.; Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii; Joseph M. Montoya, D-N.M.; Edward J. Gurney, R-Fla.; Lowell P. Weicker, R-Conn.

4. Earl S. Silbert.

5. Alfred C. Baldwin III, at the Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge.

6. E. Howard Hunt.

7. Burning Tree golf course in a Maryland suburb.

8. Alexander Butterfield.

9. His predecessor, Lyndon B. Johnson.

10. Dr. Lewis Fielding of Beverly Hills, Calif.

11. Leon Jaworski, Henry Ruth and Charles F.C. Ruff

12. (a) On Grand Cay in the Bahamas; (b) Camp David; (c) In the Oval Office; (d) At his villa in San Clemente, Calif.; (e) Flying home to California.

Feinsilber, now retired, created this quiz in 1997 for the 25th anniversary of the Watergate break-in. It has been updated for the 50th.