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Opinion
Stephen L. Carter

What Watching ‘All the President’s Men’ Won’t Tell You

The movie is great, but for a true accounting of Watergate 50 years after the infamous break-in, you have to read the book.

Spoiler: he quits.

Spoiler: he quits.

Photographer: MPI/Getty Images

Critics and historians have long nitpicked “All the President’s Men,” Alan J. Pakula’s splendid 1976 thriller about how the Washington Post’s reporting on the Watergate break-in helped topple a president. Now, with the 50th anniversary of the June 1972 burglary looming, a new concern is being raised: that by failing to mention the late Barry Sussman, the editor who led the Post’s investigation, the film helped create in the public mind a misunderstanding of the history. 

“That Sussman was omitted from the story” — writes media critic Tom Jones at Poynter — is the movie’s “one flaw.” As a result of the omission, the Atlantic points out, the journalists who were called at the time “the Watergate Three” have gone down in history as “the Watergate Two.”