‘White House Plumbers’ True Story, Explained: Who Were Howard Hunt And Gordon Liddy?


Abuse of power and corruption are inevitable facets of politics, but there are a few scandals and controversies that are of such magnitude that they get etched in the history books of the nation forever, and whenever future generations read about them, they get as shocked at the audacity of the perpetrators as the people who witnessed them firsthand. Directed by David Mandel, “White House Plumbers” is inspired by true events and tells the story of one of the biggest scandals that shook the foundations of the United Nations of America. The HBO original, helmed by Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux, is based on the work of activist and author Mathew Krogg and an undersecretary of the transportation policy in the Nixon regime, who was also an accomplice in the Watergate scandal, named Egil Krogh. What happened in 1972 under the Nixon government was a sheer breach of trust and nothing short of treason. They had made plans to rig the entire election process and make a mockery of democracy, and had they not committed blunders during the burglary that alerted the law enforcement authorities, they would have gotten away with it, and the people of the nation would have never come to know what happened behind the closed doors of the Oval Office.

After seeing the trailer for “White House Plumbers,” it seems like the makers have opted for a more satirical and lighthearted approach, though it would be interesting to see how many facts they have gotten right and how much has been altered to add a dramatic flair to the narrative.

What Happened In The Watergate Scandal?

Five individuals broke inside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee on June 17, 1972, and it was found that they were trying to wiretap the Watergate building and steal important documents that could help President Richard M. Nixon win re-election. All these perpetrators were associated with an organization called the Committee for the Re-elections of the President (CRP), whose sole purpose was to raise funds for Nixon’s campaign in addition to doing all sorts of corrupt activities behind the curtains. After the burglars were caught, the Nixon administration tried to bury the case, and when they realized that the scandal had become a national issue, they started denying any sort of affiliation with the burglars. This was the second time the burglars entered the Watergate budding, as the recording apparatus that had secretly been installed during their first break-in wasn’t working properly. The guards at the building noticed some activity and informed the police about it, who immediately arrived at the scene and caught them red-handed.

A whistleblower using the pseudonym “Deep Throat” leaked the information to the media, after which the administration started to crumble, and individuals from the government started giving testimonies against Nixon. Almost 33 years after the scandal came into public light, the former deputy director of the FBI, William Mark Felt, disclosed in 2005 that he was the whistleblower who had given top-secret intel to the reporters from the Washington Post back in the day. There is a reason why journalism is called the first rough draft of history; if it hadn’t been for two young journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the history that we would have known would have been just a bunch of lies. After the White House tried everything it could to derail the investigation of the Watergate scandal, it was because of these two journalists that the truth came out in the open. Nixon used to record every conversation that happened inside his office, but when the investigative committee was formed, he tried his best to not let the tapes fall into their hands for the longest time.

But as the pressure on the White House escalated, Nixon realized that he didn’t have a lot of options other than to hand over the tapes. Nixon came to a realization that the controversy had blown out of proportion and the damage was beyond repair, so after handing over the tapes, he eventually resigned from his position as President of the United States on August 8, 1974.

Who Were Howard Hunt And Gordon Liddy?

White House Plumbers was the name given to a small team consisting of retired FBI and CIA agents whose sole agenda was to stop top-secret information from being leaked and protect the presidency of Richard M. Nixon at all costs. This organization was created just after the Pentagon Papers were published, which brought the corruption of the government to light and told the people of the nation that their trust had been broken and that what they perceived to be reality was just state-sponsored lies. On June 17, 1972, it came to the nation’s attention that the top-secret organization, the White House Plumbers, was involved in a lot of illegal activities and had orchestrated the entire Watergate scandal.

Howard Hunt, played by the enigmatic Woody Harrelson in the HBO series, was one of the senior members of the White House Plumbers organization, and before that, he had worked with the Central Intelligence Agency. The burglars who had entered the Democratic National Committee headquarters had his phone number and contact details on them, and that’s how the law enforcement authority had come to know that Richard Nixon was involved in the entire proceedings, as a secret mission of such magnitude couldn’t have been done without keeping him in the loop. Howard Hunt was sentenced to 33 months in prison after he was convicted for wiretapping the DNC building, conspiring with Liddy and others, and being involved in burglary. 

Gordon Liddy, played by Justin Theroux in the HBO series, was an ex-FBI agent and one of the members of the White House plumbers. It is said that the plan to send burglars to the Democratic National Committee headquarters was Liddy’s brainchild. Liddy came from a family of lawyers, and he had conspired with Howard Hunt to steal top-secret information through which Nixon could sabotage his opponents and win the re-elections. Liddy served more than 4 years in prison for refusing to testify in front of the committee that was looking into the Watergate scandal, in addition to being convicted for charges such as burglary and conspiracy.

As of now, we do not know how much creative liberty David Mandel and his team have taken in the 5-part HBO series, though we are pretty sure that it would be a riveting drama that would take us through the nitty-gritty of one of the darkest phases in American history.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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