Martha Mitchell tried to tell the truth about Watergate but President Nixon’s cronies trashed her reputation. Now her forgotten story is about to go mainstream and her reputation restored.
Five days after the Watergate break-in Martha Mitchell was telling a reporter over the phone that she would leave her husband, former US attorney general John Mitchell, who actually ordered the break-in, if he did not quit the “dirty business” of politics. But the conversation ended abruptly and Mitchell was heard shouting: “You just get away – get away!” Then the line went dead. She was being abducted by a former FBI agent and forcibly sedated. She was held captive for days.
Mitchell would also see her reputation destroyed by loyalists to the then president, Richard 'I am not a crook' Nixon (thing is, he was), because of what she knew about Watergate – dooming her to become one of the hidden figures of the biggest political scandal of the 20th century.
That is about to change. The 1970s celebrity socialite will next month be played by the Hollywood actor Julia Roberts, an eight-part TV drama co-starring Sean Penn as John Mitchell and Dan Stevens as the White House counsel, John Dean.
The series on America’s Starz network – riding a wave of books, exhibitions and films marking the 50th anniversary of the break‐in and burglary of the Democratic national headquarters at the Watergate complex – illuminates the mostly forgotten role of a woman who paid a tragic price for trying to raise the alarm about Nixon’s skulduggery.