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Robert Upshur "Bob" Woodward (born March 26, 1943) is regarded as one of America's preeminent investigative reporters and non-fiction authors. He has worked for The Washington Post since 1971 as a reporter, and is currently an associate editor of the Post. While a young reporter for The Washington Post in 1972, Woodward was teamed up with Carl Bernstein; the two did much, but not all, of the original news reporting on the Watergate scandal. These scandals led to numerous government investigations and the eventual resignation of President Richard Nixon. Gene Roberts, the former executive editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and former managing editor of The New York Times, has called the work of Woodward and Bernstein "maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time."

Early life and career

Woodward was born to Jane and Alfred Woodward in Geneva, Illinois. He was a resident of Wheaton, Illinoismarker. He enrolled in Yale Universitymarker with an NROTC scholarship, and studied history and English literature. While at Yale, Woodward joined the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. He received his B.A. degree in 1965, and began a five-year tour of duty in the U.S. Navy. After being discharged as a lieutenant in August, 1970, Woodward considered attending law school but applied for a job as a reporter for The Washington Post, while taking graduate courses at The George Washington Universitymarker. Harry M. Rosenfeld, the Post's metropolitan editor, gave him a two-week trial but did not hire him because of his lack of journalistic experience. After a year at the Montgomery Sentinel, a weekly newspaper in the Washington, D.C.marker suburbs, Woodward was hired as a Post reporter in September, 1971.

Woodward has authored or coauthored 15 non-fiction books in the last 35 years. All 15 have been national bestsellers and 11 of them have been #1 national non-fiction bestsellers—more #1 national non-fiction bestsellers than any contemporary author. He has written multiple #1 national non-fiction bestsellers on a wide range of subjects in each of the four decades he has been active as an author, from 1974 to 2009.

Woodward's work for the Post and his books, which penetrate deeply into various Washington, D.C.marker institutions and seven presidencies, are often greeted with initial skepticism, criticism, and even denials. But time and time again, after the record, memoirs and various government investigations are completed, his work has proved to be accurate.

In his 1995 memoir A Good Life, former executive editor of the Post Ben Bradlee singled out Woodward in the foreword. "It would be hard to overestimate the contributions to my newspaper and to my time as editor of that extraordinary reporter, Bob Woodward -- surely the best of his generation at investigative reporting, the best I've ever seen. ... And Woodward has maintained the same position on top of journalism's ladder ever since Watergate."

David Gergen, who had worked in the White Housemarker during the Richard Nixon and three subsequent administrations said in his 2000 memoir Eyewitness to Power, of Woodward's reporting, "I don't accept everything he writes as gospel -- he can get details wrong -- but generally, his accounts in both his books and in the Post are remarkably reliable and demand serious attention. I am convinced he writes only what he believes to be true or has been reliably told to be true. And he is certainly a force for keeping the government honest."

Career recognition and awards

Woodward made crucial contributions to two Pulitzer Prizes won by The Washington Post. First he and Bernstein were the lead reporters on Watergate and the Post won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1973.

Woodward also was the main reporter for the Post's coverage of the September 11 attacks in 2001. Ten stories won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting -- "six carrying the familiar byline of Bob Woodward," noted the New York Times article announcing the awards.

He has been a recipient of nearly every other major American journalism award, including the Heywood Broun award (1972), Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Reporting (1972 and 1986), Sigma Delta Chi Award (1973), George Polk Award (1972), William Allen White Medal (2000), and the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Reporting on the Presidency (2002).

Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard called Woodward "the best pure reporter of his generation, perhaps ever." In 2003, Albert Hunt of The Wall Street Journal called Woodward "the most celebrated journalist of our age." In 2004, Bob Schieffer of CBS News said, "Woodward has established himself as the best reporter of our time. He may be the best reporter of all time."



Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were assigned to report on the June 17, 1972 burglary of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in a Washington, D.C.marker office building called Watergatemarker. Their work, under editor Benjamin C. Bradlee, became known for being the first to report on a number of political "dirty tricks" used by the Nixon re-election committee during his campaign for reelection. Their book about the scandal, All the President's Men, became a #1 best-seller and was later turned into a movie. The 1976 film, starring Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein, transformed the reporters into celebrities and inspired a wave of interest in investigative journalism.

The book and movie also led to one of Washington, D.C.'s most famous mysteries: the identity of Woodward's secret Watergate informant known as Deep Throat, a reference to the title of a popular pornographic movie at the time. Woodward said he would protect Deep Throat's identity until the man died or allowed his name to be revealed. For over 30 years, only Woodward, Bernstein, and a handful of others knew the informant's identity until it was claimed by his family to Vanity Fair magazine to be former Federal Bureau of Investigationmarker Assistant Director W. Mark Felt in May 2005. Woodward has confirmed this claim and published a book, titled The Secret Man, which detailed his relationship with Felt.

Woodward and Bernstein followed up with a second successful book on Watergate, entitled The Final Days (Simon and Schuster 1976), covering in extensive depth the period from November 1973 until President Nixon resigned in August 1974.

The Woodward and Bernstein Watergate Papers are housed at the Harry Ransom Centermarker at the University of Texas at Austinmarker.

George W. Bush administration

Woodward spent the most time of any journalist with former President George W. Bush, interviewing him six times for close to eleven hours total. Woodward's four most recent books, Bush at War (2002), Plan of Attack (2004), State of Denial (2006), and The War Within: A Secret White House History (2008) are detailed accounts of the Bush presidency, including the response to the September 11 attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.In a series of articles published in January 2002, he and Dan Balz described the events at Camp Davidmarker in the aftermath of September 11 and discussed the Worldwide Attack Matrix.

Woodward believed the Bush Administration's claims of Iraqi WMDs prior to the war. During an appearance on Larry King Live, he was asked by a telephone caller "Suppose we go to war and go into Iraq and there are no weapons of mass destruction," Woodward responded "I think the chance of that happening is about zero. There's just too much there."

On February 1, 2008, as a part of the Authors @ Google series, Woodward, who was interviewed by Google CEO Eric E. Schmidt, said that he had a fourth book in his Bush at War series in the making. He then added jokingly that his wife told him that she'll kill him if he decides to write a fifth in the series.

Woodward's fourth book on the Bush administration, The War Within: A Secret White House History , was released September 8, 2008.

Involvement in the Plame scandal

On November 14, 2005, Woodward gave a two-hour deposition to Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. He testified that a senior administration official told him in June 2003 that Iraq war critic Joe Wilson’s wife (later identified as Valerie Plame), worked for the CIA. Woodward therefore appears to have been the first reporter to learn about her employment (albeit not her name) from a government source. The deposition was reported in The Washington Post on November 16, 2005, and was the first time Woodward revealed publicly that he had any special knowledge about the case. Woodward testified the information was given to him in a “casual” and “offhand” manner, and said that he does not believe it was part of any coordinated effort to “out” Plame as a CIA employee. Later, Woodward's source identified himself. It was Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's deputy and an internal critic of the Iraq War and the White House inner circle.

Woodward said the revelation came at the end of a long, confidential background interview for his 2004 book Plan of Attack. He did not reveal the official’s disclosure at the time because it did not strike him as important. Later, he kept it to himself because it came as part of a confidential conversation with a source.

In his deposition, Woodward also said that he had conversations with Scooter Libby after the June 2003 conversation with his confidential Administration source, and testified that it is possible that he might have asked Libby further questions about Joe Wilson’s wife before her employment at the CIA and her identity were publicly known.

Woodward apologized to Leonard Downie, Jr., the editor of The Washington Post for not informing him earlier of the June 2003 conversation. Downie accepted the apology and said even had the paper known it would not have changed its reporting.

Other professional activities

Woodward has continued to write books and report stories for The Washington Post, and serves as an associate editor at the paper. He focuses on the presidency, intelligence, and Washington institutions such as the U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker, The Pentagonmarker, and the Federal Reserve. He also wrote the book Wired, about the Hollywoodmarker drug culture and the death of comic John Belushi.


Criticisms of style

Woodward often uses unnamed sources in his reporting for the Post and in his books. Using extensive interviews with firsthand witnesses, documents, meeting notes, diaries, calendars and other documentation, Woodward attempts to construct a seamless narrative of events, most often told through the eyes of the key participants.

Nicholas von Hoffman has made the criticism that "arrestingly irrelevant detail is [often] used," while Michael Massing believes Woodward's books are "filled with long, at times tedious passages with no evident direction." Christopher Hitchens of has dismissed him as a "stenographer to the stars."

Joan Didion has leveled the most comprehensive criticism of Woodward, in a lengthy September 1996 essay in The New York Review of Books. Though "Woodward is a widely trusted reporter, even an American icon," she says that he assembles reams of often irrelevant detail, fails to draw conclusions, and make judgments. "Measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent" from his books after Watergate from 1979 to 1996, she said. She said the books are notable for "a scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story not as it is occurring but as it is presented, which is to say as it is manufactured." She ridicules "fairness" as "a familiar newsroom piety, the excuse in practice for a good deal of autopilot reporting and lazy thinking." All this focus on what people said and thought—their "decent intentions" -- circumscribes "possible discussion or speculation," resulting in what she called "political pornography."

The Post's Richard Harwood defended Woodward in a September 6, 1996 column, arguing that Woodward's method is that of a reporter -- "talking to people you write about, checking and cross-checking their versions of contemporary history," and collecting documentary evidence in notes, letters and records."

Criticisms of content

Woodward has been accused by a few critics of being too close to the Bush administration, and some say his relationship with the administration was in stark contrast to his investigative role in Watergate. Others disagree, however. In 2004, both the Bush campaign and the Kerry campaign recommended his book Plan of Attack, and The New York Times said the book contained "convincing accounts of White House failures... presented alongside genial encounters with the president." Rick Hertzberg in The New Yorker wrote that "Plan of Attack is Woodward's best book in years" and that "Woodward is welcomed as a fair witness."

State of Denial, released on October 2, 2006, describes alleged tensions and dysfunctions within the Bush Administration in the lead-up to, and following, the invasion of Iraq. Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal wrote, "It may be a great (book). It is serious, densely, even exhaustively, reported, and a real contribution to history in that it gives history what it most requires, first-person testimony. It is well documented, with copious notes."

Many commentators and historians have criticised Woodward for perceived inaccuracies and inconsistencies in his books and other writings.

*Woodward has been accused of exaggeration and fabrication, most notably regarding "Deep Throat", his famous Watergate informant. Even since W. Mark Felt was announced as the true identity behind Deep Throat, historians John Dean and Ed Gray, in separate publications, have used Woodward's book All The President's Men and his published notes on his meetings with Deep Throat to show that Deep Throat could not have been only Mark Felt. They argued that Deep Throat was a fictional composite made up of several Woodward sources, only one of whom was Felt. Gray, in his book In Nixon's Web, even goes so far as to publish an e-mail and telephone exchange he had with Donald Santarelli, a Washington lawyer who was a justice department official during Watergate, in which Santarelli confirmed to Gray that he was the source behind statements Woodward recorded in notes he has attributed to Deep Throat.

*J. Bradford DeLong has noticed strong inconsistencies between the accounts of the making of Clinton economic policy described both in Woodward's book Maestro and his book The Agenda.

*Some of Woodward's critics accuse him of abandoning critical inquiry to maintain his access to high-profile political actors. Anthony Lewis called the style "a trade in which the great grant access in return for glory." Christopher Hitchens accused Woodward of acting as "stenographer to the rich and powerful."

*Woodward believed the Bush Administration's claims of Iraqi WMDs prior to the war, and the publication of the book At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA by former DCI George Tenet led Woodward to engage in a rather tortuous account of the extent of his pre-war conversations with Tenet in an article in The New Yorker Magazine in which he also chastised New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd for being critical of him.

*Woodward's dual role as journalist and author has opened him up to occasional criticism for sitting on information for publication in a book, rather than presenting it sooner when it might affect the events at hand. In The Commanders (1991), for instance, he indicated that Colin Powell had opposed Operation Desert Storm, yet Woodward did not publish this information before Congress voted on a war resolution. And in Veil, he indicates that former CIA Director William J. Casey personally knew of arms sales to the Contras, but he did not reveal this until after the Congressional investigation.

*Martin Dardis, the chief investigator for the Dade County State Attorney, who in 1972 discovered that the money found on the Watergate burglars came from the Committee to Re-elect the President, has complained that All the President's Men misrepresented him.

*A review by Anthony Lewis in The New York Review of Books challenged the claim in The Brethren (written by Woodward and Scott Armstrong) that Supreme Court Justice William Brennan once voted in a way he thought was wrong to avoid hurting the feelings of Justice Blackmun. Woodward and Armstrong insisted they had one of Brennan's clerks confirm the story on the record; Lewis interviewed everyone who clerked that term; all found the story false or implausible. Woodward showed the notes he'd taken on the subject to a third-party; the notes themselves were unclear but Lewis located the source of the notes who insisted that Woodward misrepresented him.

*Woodward was also accused of fabricating his deathbed interview with Casey, as described in Veil; critics say the interview simply could not have taken place as written in the book. Following Casey's death, President Ronald Reagan wrote: "[Woodward]'s a liar and he lied about what Casey is supposed to have thought of me." However, the CIA's own internal report found that Casey spoke to Woodward 43 times, sometimes alone at Casey's home, and his deputy Bob Gates wrote in his own book that he was able to communicate with Casey at that same time and quoted Casey making short statements similar to those reported by Woodward. The author Ronald Kessler reported similar findings in his book on the CIA.

Commentator David Frum has said, perhaps partly tongue-in-cheek, that Washington officials can learn something about the way Washington works from Woodward's books: "From his books, you can draw a composite profile of the powerful Washington player. That person is highly circumspect, highly risk averse, eschews new ideas, flatters his colleagues to their face (while trashing them to Woodward behind their backs), and is always careful to avoid career-threatening confrontation. We all admire heroes, but Woodward's books teach us that those who rise to leadership are precisely those who take care to abjure heroism for themselves."

Despite these criticisms and challenges, Woodward has been praised as an authoritative and balanced journalist. The New York Times Book Review said in 2004 that "No reporter has more talent for getting Washington’s inside story and telling it cogently."

Lecture circuit

Bob Woodward regularly gives speeches to industry lobbying groups, such as the American Bankruptcy Institute, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, and the Mortgage Bankers Association. Woodward commands speaking fees "rang[ing] from $15,000 to $60,000" and donates them to his personal foundation, the Woodward Walsh Foundation, which donates to charities including Sidwell Friends Schoolmarker. Washington Post policy prohibits "speaking engagements without permission from department heads" but Woodward insists that the policy is "fuzzy and ambiguous".


Woodward now lives in the Georgetownmarker section of Washington. He is married to Elsa Walsh, a writer for The New Yorker and the author of Divided Lives: The Public and Private Struggles of Three American Women, which Entertainment Weekly cited as one of the 10 best books of 1995. He has two daughters.

Woodward still maintains a listed number in the Washington, D.C.marker phone directory . He says this is because he wants any potential news source to be able to reach him.



Woodward has co-authored or authored twelve #1 national best-selling non-fiction books, more than any other contemporary American writer. They are:

Other books, which have also been best-sellers but not #1, are:
  • The Choice - about Clinton's re-election bid; (1996) ISBN 0-684-81308-4
  • Maestro - about Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan; (2000) ISBN 0743204123
  • The Secret Man - about Mark Felt's disclosure, after more than thirty years, that he was Deep Throat. The book was written before Felt admitted his title, as he was sickly and Bob expected that someway or another, it would come out; (2005) ISBN 0-7432-8715-0

Newsweek has excerpted five of Woodward's books in cover stories; 60 Minutes has done segments on five; and three have been made into movies.

Criticism of Bob Woodward

Rich, Frank. "All the President's Flacks," The New York Times. (December 4, 2005)

Pease, Lisa. "Bob Woodward" Probe Magazine, January-February 1996 (Vol. 3 No. 2)

Pop culture references

On The Simpsons episode "Whacking Day", Bart reads a book called The Truth About Whacking Day, written by Bob Woodward.

In the movie The Skulls, the character Will Beckford tries to compare himself to Woodward while reading his column in the school newspaper.

In the movie Dick, which is about Watergate, Woodward is played by actor/comedian Will Ferrell. Woodward and Bernstein are depicted as two bickering, childish near-incompetents, small-mindedly competitive with each other.

In the movie Wired, adapted from Woodward's book Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi, Woodward is portrayed onscreen by J. T. Walsh.

The graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore is set in a version of 1985 where Nixon is a fifth-term president. A throwaway line reveals that a pair of unknown journalists, Woodward and Bernstein, were found murdered in a garage in the early 1970s. This same scenario is used as a dystopian detail in Back to the Future 2.In the episodic video game Watchmen: The End is Nigh, telling about events before the graphic novel, Rorschach and Nite Owl II find Woodward and Bernstein dead in the crime lord Underboss' car's trunk.

Woodward scripted the "Der Roachenkavalier" episode of Hill Street Blues that aired on February 3, 1987.

In one Bloom County series, Woodward writes a fictional expose about the late Bill the Cat's "ugly, sordid private life", based entirely on information he got out of Opus the Penguin (although Mickey Mouse and Charlie Brown also appear to have something to do with it). A three-Sunday strip-long mockumenatry based on the Woodward book was used later to explain how Bill came back to life after dying in a car crash.

In "The Long Lead Story", episode 5 of the NBC television series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Matthew Perry's character Matt Albie is talking to reporter Martha O'Dell, played by Christine Lahti. She points to his show board and says, "The Lobster sketch isn't funny yet," to which he replies, "Tell me something else I don't know, Woodward"; a sarcastic jab at O'Dell's decision to report on a sketch-comedy show despite being a Pulitzer Prize-winning political reporter.

In The Wire episode "React Quotes", a borderline-incompetent journalist is referred to as "not exactly Bob Woodward."

In multiple episodes of Gilmore Girls they refer to Woodward, Ben Bradlee, Bernstein, and All the President's Men.

In the film Watchmen, The Comedian states while shooting at a riot saying " Ain't had this much fun since Woodward & Bernstein."


  1. Roy J. Harris, Jr., Pulitzer's Gold, 2007, p. 233, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, ISBN 978-0-8262-4.
  3. Ben Bradlee, A Good Life, 1995, pp. 12-13, New York: Simon and Schuster, ISBN 0-684-80894-3. See also pp. 324-384.
  4. David Gergen, Eyewitness to Power, 2000, p. 71, New York: Simon and Schuster, ISBN 0-684-82663-1.
  5. [1]
  6. [2]
  7. Felicity Barringer, “Pulitzers Focus on Sept. 11, and The Times Wins 7”, The New York Times, April 9, 2002, p. A20., [3]
  8. Fred Barnes, “The White House at War,” The Weekly Standard, December 12, 2002, [4]
  9. Bob Schieffer, “The Best Reporter of All Time,” CBS News, April 18, 2004, [5]
  10. "The War Within" page 443
  11. YouTube - Authors@Google: Bob Woodward
  12. - Simon & Schuster Confirms Title of New Bob Woodward Book
  14. Nicholas von Hoffman, “Unasked Questions,” The New York Review of Books, June 10, 1976, Vol. 23, Number 10.
  15. Michael Massing, “Sitting on Top of the News,” The New York Review of Books, June 27, 1991, Vol. 38, Number 12.
  16. Christopher Hitchens, “Bob Woodward: Stenographer to the Stars,”, undated, [6]
  17. Joan Didion, “The Deferential Spirit,” The New York Review of Books, September 19, 2006, Vol. 43, Number 14.
  18. Richard Harwood, “Deconstructing Bob Woodward,” The Washington Post, September 6, 1996, P.A23.
  25. Letter From Washington: Woodward vs. Tenet: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker
  27. Ronald Reagan, In His Own Words -
  28. [7]Frum, David, "David Frum's Diary" blog, at the National Review Online Web site, October 5, 2006, 11:07 a.m. post "Blogging Woodward (4)", accessed same day
  29. Bob Woodward’s Moonlighting—By Ken Silverstein (Harper's Magazine)
  30. David Broder’s and Bob Woodward’s Lame Alibis—By Ken Silverstein (Harper's Magazine)
  31. Deborah Howell - When Speech Isn't Free -

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