Portland’s most notorious muckraker has always seen conspiracy where others have not as he’s plumbed Rose City corruption and vice in three previous books.
Now the 71-year-old Stanford has turned to one of the biggest conspiracies of all time: the Watergate scandal.
In his jaunty, jaded prose, Stanford revives the theory that Dean—White House counsel during the scandal—was the real mastermind of the break-in at the Watergate Hotel. Stanford conjectures Dean’s true objective was to gain information to blackmail top Democrats partaking in a Washington, D.C., prostitution ring.
What Stanford says he has that no one else does is the little black book of the ring’s hooker in chief, Heidi Rikan.
Feral House released White House Call Girl as an e-book this month, though not before Dean threatened to sue Stanford and his publisher.
Stanford had coffee with WW last week to talk about why he thinks sex was at the heart of last century’s biggest political scandal.
WW: If All the President’s Men is the canonical version of what happened at Watergate, what’s your version?
Phil Stanford: All the President’s Men is about uncovering the cover-up. What they leave out is why was there a break-in in the first place. The convenient explanation—the explanation that the Watergate investigating committee came up with—was that the burglars broke into the Democratic National Committee because they wanted political information.
They didn’t. They were there to get sexual blackmail information from a phone being used to make connections with the call-girl operation that was about two blocks down the street.
Who was the White House call girl of your book’s title?
Heidi Rikan was the mob’s girl from the time she was 20. She’s running this [call-girl] operation for the mob—which makes a habit of trading favors with the CIA. And in this case, they’re running a sexual blackmail operation. And she’s running it for them.
You raise questions whether Deep Throat was even real. That’s like telling a child there’s no Santa Claus.
There always has been a question of whether Deep Throat was one person. When [Bob] Woodward and [Carl] Bernstein sat down to write All the President’s Men, they didn’t have a Deep Throat in the first draft of the book. Their literary agent says that. So, no, there wasn’t a Deep Throat.
Why does the influence of organized crime into American politics keep coming up for you?
People don’t want to see it. It’s there. Once I started looking back again at the Watergate story, I was able to understand that in terms of organized crime.
Here in Portland, in the ’60s and ’70s, which I know most about, intelligence cops were close to the call-girl matters. Same thing happens back in Washington, D.C., but the stakes are much higher.
Are you seeing these things because you want to see them?
I’m not making them up, if that’s what your question is.
You’d like to believe that your leaders are acting in your best interest, that they’re not trying to make money under the table, that they’re not allied with the underworld. History shows—certainly at the national level—the major political parties have ties to the underworld. They can’t exist without that money.
Watergate is a 40-year-old story. What does it tell us now?
You should not accept the first wave of news stories that come out about a scandal. You should always look beneath the surface.
You can’t say that! We write the “first wave of news stories” about scandal.
I know—and that’s the position The Washington Post is in. They want to preserve their legacy and dismiss what I’m doing as revisionist history. But what is history but an attempt to revise and extend our understanding of historical events? It’s absolutely ridiculous to suppose that the first or second or third take on a story is it. There’s always more.