Deep Throat Revealed

John O'Connor and "Deep Throat" Mark Felt.

By Julie Grates
August September 2005

When John O’Connor, an Irish-American lawyer residing in San Francisco, recently revealed the identity of “Deep Throat,” the source responsible for bringing down Richard Nixon in the ’70s (and one of journalism’s best-kept secrets), he never anticipated the ensuing media storm.

“It was more than I anticipated. I thought it was going to be a mild stir, I didn’t think it would be an explosion,” he said in an interview with Irish America.

O’Connor says he always suspected that Deep Throat was fellow Irish-American Mark Felt, the deputy director of the FBI when the Watergate scandal broke, and his suspicions were confirmed on meeting Felt’s grandson, Nick Jones.

When Jones mentioned in passing that his grandfather was Mark Felt, O’Connor interjected with “Mark Felt! You’re kidding me. Your granddad is Deep Throat! Did you know that?”

Jones admitted the family was starting to suspect as much, and a few days later, O’Connor received a phone call from Jones and his mother, Joan Felt. The two asked O’Connor if he could convince Felt to come forward.

“The turning point was when his family started talking to him. It was a gradual process whereby he finally understood what he did was noble,” O’Connor said.

“I always felt that he was a hero and should not be ashamed of what he did. It was essentially noble and he protected the justice system. He should think of himself as a hero and not die in anguish,” O’Connor added.

An Irish-Catholic from Indianapolis, O’Connor was constantly aware and extremely proud of his heritage growing up. “My family were the leaders of the Irish community in Indianapolis. All my friends were Irish. Most of my classmates were Irish, and my father was very active in Irish matters,” he said, also recalling the Irish ballads that his father sang him before bed.

He grew up in the politically volatile backdrop of the ’60s, and like many families at the time, O’Connor’s were very politically active. Both his father and grandfather were involved in Democratic politics in the Indianapolis area. At the turn of the century, O’Connor’s grandfather was considered a local hero. When a tenant in his building was threatened with extradition back to Ireland, his grandfather intervened to keep him in the U.S.

Now a prominent attorney in San Francisco, John has inherited his grandfather’s sense of justice, and his exposure of Mark Felt is seen by many as a heroic act in the name of truth.

“Deep Throat, in fact, had been the hero who started it all — along with two reporters he assisted, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein,” he wrote in an article in Vanity Fair, which broke the story.

Though Mark Felt’s family is thrilled with the recent press coverage, O’Connor has decided to bow out of the public eye for the time being. He has stopped doing talk shows, and will only do speaking in the local community, saying, “I’m not interested in being a journalist. I’m a lawyer.” ♦

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