Ny Times Journalists Say They Had Watergate Scoop First

05.26.09 | FL News Team

Two former "New York Times" staffers now say they fumbled the scoop of the century nearly 40 years ago. Details of the Watergate scandal that brought down President Nixon were initially leaked to "Times" reporter Robert Smith over lunch by the acting director of the FBI.

The lunch date occurred just two months after the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in June 1972. Two men were caught trying to bug the office. The FBI honcho hinted that culpability went all the way to White House.

However, Smith was in his final days as a reporter before heading off to Yale Law School. He passed along his information to an editor, Robert Phelps, who took notes and recorded the conversation, the "Times" reports.

But the story never materialized, at least not in the pages of the gray lady. Instead, "Washington Post" reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein nabbed both the scoop and the iconic status that came with it.

The "Times'" Phelps describes the little-known fumble in his recently published memoirs. He said colleagues at the paper had no idea what became of the notes or the tape and concludes the dead end, "was probably my fault."