Veteran journalist Carl Bernstein, one of the media’s go-to experts on Watergate as he and Bob Woodward were the famed Washington Post journalists who broke the story that led to President Nixon’s resignation, has formed quite a different reputation in the era of President Trump.
On Sunday, Bernstein offered his reaction to the breaking news of the leaked recording of a heated phone conversation between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger over the state’s election results that were certified for President-elect Biden.
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“It’s not déjà vu, this was something far worse than occurred in Watergate,” Bernstein said on CNN. “We have both a criminal president of the United States in Donald Trump and a subversive president of the United States at the same time with this one person, subverting the very basis of our democracy and willing to act criminally in that subversion.”
While such comments from Berstein could ring as quite chilling from the journalist whose reporting torpedoed Nixon’s presidency, the comments could also ring as quite familiar as the now-CNN political analyst has repeatedly invoked Watergate over and over and over again during the Trump presidency.
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Back in September, as Bob Woodward released his audio tapes of Trump speaking candidly about the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in the early months of the pandemic, Bernstein declared them the “smoking gun of his negligence.”
“It’s a dereliction of duty, recorded as no other presidential dereliction of duty has been, even more so than the Nixon tapes in this instance,” Bernstein said. “The last time this happened during the end of Nixon’s presidency, the Republican leadership… went to the White House and told Nixon he had to resign. And the facts here are even graver than in Watergate.”
During CNN’s coverage of the Ukraine scandal, Berstein claimed that there were “echos” of Watergate and later indicated that it was “perhaps worse in some regards.”
Back in 2018, amid the Russia investigation headed by special counsel Robert Mueller, Bernstein deemed the entire Trump presidency “worse than Watergate.”
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“What we are watching in the Trump presidency is worse than Watergate. It’s worse than Watergate, as I say, because the system worked in Watergate,” Bernstein explained. “The heroes in Watergate were Republicans who demanded that the president be held accountable, who demanded that he be transparent, who demanded to know what did the president know and when did he know it, and who conducted a bipartisan investigation that led, in fact, to understanding and finding out what Nixon had done, whereas the Republicans on Capitol Hill thus far have done almost everything they can to impede and undermine the legitimate investigation. So it’s a totally different and much more dangerous situation.”
Bernstein also invoked Watergate while knocking Trump’s chumminess with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 2018 joint press conference in Helsinki, referred to the 2017 firing of FBI Director James Comey as “potentially more dangerous” than Watergate, and he even made Nixon comparisons before Trump took office, claiming in December 2016 that “Richard Nixon was nothing, in terms of lying, compared to what we have seen from Donald Trump.”
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However, during the 2016 election, Bernstein did sing a different tune, only to fact-check Trump’s claim that Hillary Clinton’s email scandal was “bigger than Watergate,” saying that “no way” was the comparison accurate.
“Watergate was about a criminal president of the United States who presided over a criminal administration from the day he took office to the day he left,” Bernstein said during a panel discussion in October 2016, though later stressing that Clinton’s conduct was still “reckless.”
Following Trump’s leaked phone call, critics on social media pointed out Bernstein’s repetitious claims.
“Is there anything that’s NOT worse than Watergate to this guy?” commentary writer Drew Holden asked, estimating more than a dozen Watergate comparisons in a lengthy Twitter thread.
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“Lol, you can’t make this stuff up,” The Federalist contributor Benjamin Weingarten reacted.
“Carl Bernstein literally calls everything worse than Watergate,” GOP strategist Chris Barron wrote.