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June 15, 2009
Richard Nixon detested syndicated reporter Jack Anderson and put right at the top of his “enemies list.” When Nixon-ordered CIA and FBI volunteered surveillance of the muckraker failed to dig up any dirt, the plot to assassinate Anderson took on a life of its own at the White House.
by Don Fulsom
During Richard Nixon’s presidency, Jack Anderson was America’s premier investigative journalist—and Nixon’s most despised. In the most chilling crime contemplated by the President’s men, Anderson was targeted for assassination.
A strict moralist, Anderson’s stated lifetime goal was to keep government honest. A devout Mormon, he viewed his reportorial undertaking as a noble summons from the Almighty.
Former Anderson legman Howard Kurtz recalls that Anderson was gentle, patient and avuncular “with the young and ambitious wannabes who rotated through his small office.” He adds that Anderson’s “ability to persuade people at the highest level of government to share secrets with him was uncanny, especially in an era when most journalists were deferential toward the nation’s leaders and when top political columnists had cozy relationships with the high and mighty.”
Anderson was the last of the old-time muckrakers and, according to his biographer, Mark Feldstein, “an important transitional figure in the evolution of adversarial journalism …” Feldstein conceded, however, that Anderson would sometimes stoop fairly low to get a good story: “He swiped secret documents, used bugging equipment to eavesdrop on conversations, and jubilantly savaged his enemies, unconcerned with such journalistic niceties as fairness and balance,” the author pointed out in a 2004 interview with The Washington Post.