White House Plumbers, the Dita Beard memo & Watergate

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Episode 2 of the 2023 HBO miniseries White House Plumbers reveals another important true story that occurred in those years: the famous ITT affair related to the Dita Beard memo, which proved a network of bribes the ITT was paying to settle the Antitrust charges from the United States government. The series shows how the “Dita Beard memo” became a crucial step leading to the Watergate scandal: let’s discover what really happened.

You can read the true story of the White House Plumbers here in our article.

How HBO’s White House Plumbers connects the Dita Beard Memo to Watergate

Dita Beard was an American lobbyist who gained notoriety in the 1970s for her involvement in a political scandal known as the ITT Affair. At the time, ITT Corporation, a multinational conglomerate, was facing antitrust charges from the United States government. The company allegedly attempted to influence the outcome of the case by making illegal campaign contributions to both political parties.

Dita Beard was discovered to have written a memo outlining ITT’s efforts to bribe politicians. The Dita Beard memo outlined the company’s efforts to influence the antitrust case against them by making illegal campaign contributions to both political parties. The memo was leaked to the press and published by columnist Jack Anderson in the Washington Post.

You can read the Dita Beard memo here, in the archives of the New York Times. In the memo, Beard detailed how ITT had pledged $400,000 to the Republican Party in exchange for a favorable outcome in the antitrust case.

When the memo was leaked to the press in 1972, it caused a major scandal. It led to a Senate investigation and a series of hearings, during which Beard was called to testify about her role in the affair. The HBO series White House Plumbers shows how the White House put Dita Beard under pressure about the hearing: the Nixon administration had all interests in downplaying the scandal, avoiding further investigations that could undermine Nixon’s public image. As a result of that pressure, on March 26, 1972, Dita Bears testified under oath that she never wrote that memo.

As the New York Times reported back in those days, some days later, on April 6, Dita Beard changed her version and admitted she wrote the memo. The investigations went on in the months after, but as White House Plumbers shows, the effort of the secret team of Nixon’s “fixers” in the ITT affair motivated the White House to approve their plan to bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Washington, D.C., Watergate Office Building. That’s how the investigation on the Dita Beard memo later crossed the Watergate scandal: as this old article in the Washington Post proves, the Dita Beard memo and the whole ITT affair helped shed light on the corrupt practices of some political lobbyists and contributed to calls for greater transparency and accountability in the political process.

In White House Plumbers, DIta Beard was interpreted by the American actress Kathleen Turner.

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