G. Gordon Liddy
G. Gordon Liddy
George Gordon Battle Liddy
November 30, 1930
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||March 30, 2021 (aged 90)|
Mount Vernon, Virginia, U.S.
|Education||Fordham University (BA, LLB)|
|Criminal status||Released when parole came up after 4.5 years in prison|
(m. 1957; died 2010)
|Children||5; including Tom|
|Criminal charge||Conspiracy, burglary, illegal wiretapping|
|Penalty||20-year imprisonment, later commuted to 8 years by President Jimmy Carter|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1952–1954|
George Gordon Battle Liddy (November 30, 1930 – March 30, 2021) was an American lawyer, FBI agent, talk show host, actor, and figure in the Watergate scandal as the chief operative in the White House Plumbers unit during the Nixon administration. Liddy was convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping for his role in the scandal.
Working alongside E. Howard Hunt, Liddy organized and directed the burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate building in May and June 1972. After five of Liddy's operatives were arrested inside the DNC offices on June 17, 1972, subsequent investigations of the Watergate scandal led to Nixon's resignation in 1974. Liddy was convicted of burglary, conspiracy, and refusing to testify to the Senate committee investigating Watergate. He served nearly fifty-two months in federal prisons.
He later joined with Timothy Leary for a series of debates on multiple college campuses, and similarly worked with Al Franken in the late 1990s. Liddy served as a radio talk show host from 1992 until his retirement on July 27, 2012. His radio show as of 2009[update] was syndicated in 160 markets by Radio America and on both Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio stations in the United States. He was a guest panelist for Fox News Channel in addition to appearing in a cameo role or as a guest celebrity talent on several television shows.
Youth, family, education
Liddy was born in Brooklyn on November 30, 1930. His father, Sylvester James Liddy, was a lawyer; his mother was Maria (Abbaticchio). His family was of Irish and Italian descent. Liddy was named for George Gordon Battle, a noted attorney and Tammany Hall leader. He was raised in Hoboken and West Caldwell, New Jersey. He attended St. Benedict's Preparatory School, his father's alma mater, in Newark.
College, military, law school
Liddy was educated at Fordham University, graduating in 1952. While at Fordham he was a member of the National Society of Pershing Rifles. Following graduation, Liddy joined the United States Army, serving for two years as an artillery officer during the Korean War. He was assigned to an antiaircraft radar unit in Brooklyn for medical reasons. In 1954, he was admitted to the Fordham University School of Law, earning a position on the Fordham Law Review. After graduating in 1957, he worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under J. Edgar Hoover.
Liddy joined the FBI in 1957, initially serving as a field agent in Indiana and Denver. In Denver, on September 10, 1960, Liddy apprehended Ernest Tait, one of two persons to be a two-time Ten Most Wanted fugitive. At age 29, Liddy became the youngest bureau supervisor at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. A protege of deputy director Cartha DeLoach, Liddy became part of director J. Edgar Hoover's personal staff and became his ghostwriter. Amongst his fellow agents he had a reputation for recklessness and was known primarily for two incidents. The first was an arrest in Kansas City, Missouri, during a black bag job; he was released after calling Clarence M. Kelley, former FBI agent and chief of the Kansas City Police. The second was running an FBI background check on his future wife before their marriage in 1957, which Liddy later referred to as "purely a routine precautionary measure".
Prosecutor and politician
Liddy resigned from the FBI in 1962 and worked under his father as a patent attorney in New York City until 1966. He was then hired by District Attorney Raymond Baratta as a prosecutor in exurban Dutchess County, New York, after interviewing and providing references from the FBI. In 1966, he led a drug raid on the Hitchcock Estate (then occupied by Timothy Leary) in Millbrook, New York, leading to an unsuccessful trial. Although the case generated much publicity, other lawyers complained that Liddy received credit for something in which he played a relatively small role. He was also reprimanded for firing a revolver at the ceiling in a courtroom. A Liddy-directed drug raid on Bard College in 1969 involved, among others, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who later formed the band Steely Dan and wrote the song "My Old School" about the raid. Liddy is referred to in the lyrics as "Daddy Gee".
During this period, he ran unsuccessfully for the post of District Attorney. In 1968, he ran in the Republican Party's primary election for New York's 28th congressional district. Employing the slogan "Gordon Liddy doesn't bail them out; he puts them in", he lost to Hamilton Fish IV in a close race. Liddy then accepted the nomination of the Conservative Party of New York State and ran in the general election against Fish and the Democratic candidate, Millbrook businessman John S. Dyson. Fearing that Liddy might tip the election to Dyson, Fish turned to the district's Republican leader, State Assemblyman Kenneth L. Wilson, to try and get Liddy out of the race. After Wilson's office discussed the matter with the Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, Liddy was offered a position with the Treasury Department which he accepted and withdrew from the campaign. Liddy's name remained on the ballot and while he received almost five per cent of the vote, it was not enough to stop Fish's election.
After serving as county director of Richard Nixon's successful presidential campaign, he received a political appointment as a special assistant for narcotics and gun control at the United States Department of the Treasury's headquarters in Washington, D.C.; in this capacity, he helped to establish the country's contemporary sky marshal program under the aegis of the United States Marshals Service.
Beginning in 1970, he served with Gordon Strachan and David Young as an aide to Domestic Affairs Advisor John D. Ehrlichman in the Executive Office of the President at the behest of Egil "Bud" Krogh, who worked on initiatives with Liddy at the Treasury Department. He nominally served as general counsel to the finance committee of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP) from 1971 to 1972. Subsequently, Krogh, Liddy, Young, and Erlichman were indicted for conspiracy to commit burglary in September 1973.
White House undercover operative
In 1971, after serving in several positions in the Nixon administration, Liddy was moved to Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign in order to extend the scope and reach of the White House Plumbers "special investigations unit", which had been created in response to damaging leaks of information to the press.
At CRP, Liddy concocted several plots in early 1972, collectively known under the title "Operation Gemstone". Some of these were far-fetched, intended to embarrass the Democratic opposition. These included kidnapping anti-war protest organizers and transporting them to Mexico during the Republican National Convention (which at the time was planned for San Diego), as well as luring mid-level Democratic campaign officials to a house boat in Miami, where they would be secretly photographed in compromising positions with prostitutes. Most of Liddy's ideas were rejected by Attorney General John N. Mitchell (who became campaign manager in March 1972), but a few were given the go-ahead by Nixon administration officials, including the 1971 break-in at Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office in Los Angeles. Ellsberg had leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. At some point, Liddy was instructed to break into the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate Complex.
Liddy was the Nixon administration liaison and leader of the group of five men who broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Complex. At least two separate entries were made in May and June 1972; the burglars were apprehended on June 17. The purposes of the break-in were never conclusively established. The burglars sought to place wiretaps and planned to photograph documents. Their first attempt had led to improperly-functioning recording devices being installed. Liddy did not actually enter the Watergate Complex at the time of the burglaries; rather, he admitted to supervising the second break-in which he coordinated with E. Howard Hunt, from a room in the adjacent Howard Johnson Hotel. Liddy was convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping.
Liddy was sentenced to a 20-year prison term and was ordered to pay $40,000 in fines. He began serving the sentence on January 30, 1973. On April 12, 1977, President Jimmy Carter commuted Liddy's sentence to eight years, "in the interest of equity and fairness based on a comparison of Mr. Liddy's sentence with those of all others convicted in Watergate related prosecutions", leaving the fine in effect. Carter's commutation made Liddy eligible for parole as of July 9, 1977. Liddy was released on September 7, 1977, after serving a total of four and a half years of incarceration.
In 1980, Liddy published an autobiography, titled Will, which sold more than a million copies and was made into a television movie. In it, he states that he once made plans with Hunt to kill journalist Jack Anderson, based on a literal interpretation of a Nixon White House statement, "we need to get rid of this Anderson guy".
In the mid-1980s Liddy went on the lecture circuit, being listed as the top speaker on the college circuit in 1982 by The Wall Street Journal. He later joined onetime foil Timothy Leary in a series of debates billed as "Nice Scary Guy vs. Scary Nice Guy" on the college circuit as well; Leary had once been labeled by Liddy's ex-employer Richard Nixon as "the most dangerous man in America". The lectures were the subject of a 1983 documentary film, Return Engagement. Liddy remained in the public eye with two guest appearances on the television series Miami Vice as William "Captain Real Estate" Maynard, a shadowy former covert operations officer whom Sonny Crockett knew from his military service in South Vietnam.
In 1994, the British documentary company Brian Lapping Associates sent producers Norma Percy and Paul Mitchell to interview many of the conspirators for its series titled Watergate, in which an unrepentant Liddy talked frankly about his role. He was filmed at home while sitting in front of his sizeable collection of firearms and describing "how he had been ready, if ordered, to go straight out and kill Jack Anderson, the Washington D.C. columnist." It was made clear that, at the time of filming, the gun collection was registered in his wife's name, as he was ineligible for a license.
Liddy appeared in the 1993 Golden Book Video release of Encyclopedia Brown: The Case of the Burgled Baseball Cards as Corky Lodato. In Miami Vice, he acted with John Diehl, who would later go on to portray Liddy himself in Oliver Stone's movie Nixon (1995). Liddy's other television guest credits include Airwolf, MacGyver, and the short-lived The Highwayman. Comic book author Alan Moore has stated that the character of The Comedian (a.k.a. Edward Blake) from his graphic novel Watchmen was based in a large part on Liddy. In the 1979 TV adaptation of John Dean's book Blind Ambition, Liddy was played by actor William Daniels. In the 2022 television adaptation of the podcast Slow Burn, Liddy was played by actor Shea Whigham.
In the early 1980s, Liddy joined forces with former Niles, Illinois, policeman and co-owner of the Protection Group, Ltd., Thomas E. Ferraro Jr., to launch a private security and countersurveillance firm called G. Gordon Liddy & Associates.
Liddy emerged to host his own talk radio show in 1992. Less than a year later, its popularity led to national syndication through Viacom's Westwood One Network and through Radio America, in 2003. Liddy's show ended on July 27, 2012.
Liddy was sued for defamation in 1999 by Ida "Maxie" Wells, a secretary whose desk at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters at the Watergate was said to have been a target of the last Watergate break-in in order to find evidence related to an alleged prostitution ring kept in Wells' desk. Wells' suit accused Liddy of defamation. Liddy denied the allegation, and the judge dismissed the suit, commenting that "no 'reasonable jury' could have found in favor of the plaintiff."
In addition to Will, he wrote the nonfiction books, When I Was a Kid, This Was a Free Country (2002), and Fight Back! Tackling Terrorism, Liddy Style (2006, with his son, Cdr. James G. Liddy, along with J. Michael Barrett and Joel Selanikio). He also published two novels: Out of Control (1979) and The Monkey Handlers (1990). Liddy was one of many people interviewed for the biography of Abbie Hoffman, Steal this Dream, by Larry "Ratso" Sloman.
Liddy acted in several films, including Street Asylum, Feds, Adventures in Spying, Camp Cucamonga, and Rules of Engagement. He appeared on such television shows as The Highwayman, Airwolf, Fear Factor, Perry Mason, and MacGyver. He had recurring roles in Miami Vice and Super Force, and guest starred in Al Franken's LateLine. On April 7, 1986, he appeared at WrestleMania II as a guest judge for a boxing match between Mr. T (with Joe Frazier and The Haiti Kid) versus Roddy Piper (with Bob Orton and Lou Duva). In April 1987 he appeared as a celebrity partner for a week on the game show Super Password, playing against Betty White.
Liddy co-starred on 18 Wheels of Justice as the crime boss Jacob Calder from January 12, 2000, to June 6, 2001. He appeared on a celebrity edition Fear Factor, the show's series finale, on September 12, 2006 (filmed in November 2005). At 75 years of age, Liddy was the oldest contestant ever to appear on the show. He beat the competition in the first two stunts, winning two motorcycles custom built by Metropolitan Chopper.
Personal life and death
Liddy was married to Frances Purcell-Liddy, a native of Poughkeepsie, New York, for 53 years until her death on February 5, 2010. She was a teacher. The couple had five children: Thomas, Alexandra, Grace, James, and Raymond.
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His wife has a federal firearms license but he does not, because of a disputed burglary conviction from 1964.
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