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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Jack Anderson, R.I.P. 

From our BARBARian colleague Generik we learn that legendary reporter Jack Anderson has died at the age of 83. For our younger readers, who were born after the demise of investigative journalism and thus have no idea what it looked like, a brief recap:

Anderson gave up his syndicated Washington Merry-Go-Round column at age 81 in July 2004, after Parkinson's disease left him too ill to continue. He had been hired by the column's founder, Drew Pearson, in 1947.

The column broke a string of big scandals, from Eisenhower assistant Sherman Adams taking a vicuna coat and other gifts from a wealthy industrialist in 1958 to the Reagan administration's secret arms-for-hostages deal with Iran in 1986 . . . .

Anderson won a 1972 Pulitzer Prize for reporting that the Nixon administration secretly tilted toward Pakistan in its war with India. He also published the secret transcripts of the Watergate grand jury.

Such scoops earned him a spot on President Nixon's "enemies list." Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy has described how he and other Nixon political operatives planned ways to silence Anderson permanently — such as slipping him LSD or staging a fatal car crash — but the White House nixed the idea . . . .

Over the years, Anderson was threatened by the Mafia and investigated by numerous government agencies trying to trace the sources of his leaks. In 1989, police investigated him for smuggling a gun into the U.S. Capitol to demonstrate security lapses.

Known for his toughness on the trail of a story, Anderson was also praised for personal kindness. His son Kevin said that when his father's reporting led to the arrest of some involved in the Watergate scandal, he aided their families financially.

"I don't like to hurt people, I really don't like it at all," Anderson said in 1972. "But in order to get a red light at the intersection, you sometimes have to have an accident."


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