Woodward, Bernstein...and Bachinski

Woodward, Bernstein...and Bachinski
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E. Howard Hunt died on Tuesday at 88. Or was it Howard E. Hunt? When the Washington Post first wrote about the Watergate burglar shortly after the June 17, 1972 break-in, they kept switching the "E."

Regardless of how you spell his name, the discovery of two personal address books in the Watergate booty the cops collected gave Woodward one of his first big breaks. Carl Bernstein had the day off so Woodward teamed up with Post police reporter, Gene Bachinski on Monday, June 19.

Bachinski blew his chance to be as famous as Woodward and Bernstein. Had he been more ambitious, Bachinski might have parlayed his knowledge into a more important role during Watergate. Instead he essentially handed Woodward a great story.

Bachinski worked his police sources hard (it required a lot of alcohol, he later told me) to get those two key address books - which inside had the initials H.H. and a White House phone number: WH 202-456-2282 (someone should try it to today). But also inside those books was Hunt's home phone number. And a never-mailed envelope with Hunt's $6.36 check to pay his bill at a local country club.

Woodward called the White House, got Hunt and asked why his name would have been in the burglars' address books. "Good God!" Hunt bellowed into the phone and hung up. Woodward barely knew who he was, but Hunt's reaction spoke volumes.

The next day, June 20, 1972, the story in the Post under the byline of Woodward and Bachinski began:

"A consultant to White House special counsel Charles W. Colson is listed in the address books of two of the five men arrested in an attempt to bug the Democratic National headquarters here early Saturday.

Federal sources close to the investigation said the address books contained the name and home telephone number of Howard E. Hunt (stet) with the notations, "W. House" and "W.H," wrote Woodward and Bachinski on June 20, 1972."

Hunt eventually spent 33 months in prison for his role in the break-in, one of the longest sentences of the roughly 40 men who served time for Watergate.

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