Who kidnapped Martha Mitchell? A Watergate whistleblower was held hostage in a California hotel in 1972


Martha Mitchell was the wife of American politician and former Attorney General John Mitchell. She is known as the woman who exposed the Watergate scandal. She is once again the center of attention with the limited series “Gaslit”, which is scheduled to premiere April 24, 2022 on Starz. The political thriller, which is “based on the insane but horribly true story” of the scandal, will center on Martha Mitchell, played by Julia Roberts.

Watergate was the major American political scandal involving the administration of US President Richard Nixon from 1972 to 1974 and ultimately led to Nixon’s resignation. A larger-than-life figure, Martha stepped into the limelight after trying to leak top-secret details of the Watergate scandal. This led to his brutal kidnapping and his reputation being destroyed by loyalists of then President Richard Nixon. So who kidnapped Martha Mitchell? Let’s dig a little deeper to understand what happened.


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Martha and John Mitchell in 1971. (Bettmann Archive via Getty Images)

The subject matter of podcasts like “Slow Burn: Watergate” and books like “Martha: The Life of Martha Mitchell,” shows that Martha worked as a Red Cross nurse’s aide and secretary before meeting her second husband, John N Mitchell, in 1957. .

Martha’s unquenchable thirst for gossip earned her the nicknames “Martha the Mouth” and “The Mouth of the South”. Martha’s love of bold statements has sparked several controversies. “The Vietnam War stinks!” she told a reporter in 1970. But she is best remembered as the first Watergate whistleblower.

How was Martha kidnapped?

American politician and former Attorney General John Mitchell, his wife Martha Mitchell and US President Richard Nixon on the left. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Martha learned key details about Watergate largely by listening to her husband’s phone calls and meetings and going through his paperwork. On June 22, 1972, she made a late night phone call to Helen Thomas, a hotel reporter in California, to discuss what she knew. Helen would have been Martha’s favorite reporter. During the call, she expressed her intention to leave her husband until he resigns from the CRP. However, the phone call was abruptly cut off, and when Helen called the hotel back, the hotel operator told her that Martha was “indisposed” and would not be able to speak.

A few days later, a seasoned crime reporter, Marcia Kramer of the New York Daily News, followed Martha to the Westchester Country Club in Rye, New York. Kramer found what she described as “a battered woman” who had “unbelievable” black and blue marks on her arms. Martha then accused a former FBI agent, Steve King, of assaulting, kidnapping and sedating her. She attempted to escape onto the balcony, which resulted in a physical altercation. During their struggle, her hand broke a window and required stitches. Five men held her down on a bed while a doctor injected her with a tranquilizer. She was held hostage at the California Hotel for 4 days. This rendered her unable to convey crucial details of the impending scandal.

When Mitchell returned to Washington, the media gave her no support and Nixon loyalists, desperate to cover up the White House’s role in the break-in, treated her like trash. She was labeled an alcoholic and therefore an unreliable witness.

Martha Mitchell (Photo by Wood/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“She was kidnapped, sedated, drugged,” said Kate Clarke Lemay, a historian at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, who features a Time magazine cover image of Mitchell in her “Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue” exhibit. . “People have denied it happened to him. In today’s sentence, they gassed her, they called her crazy, they used that age-old reference for women as hysterical… She was the whistleblower and we respect her today.

Starz’s political thriller, “Gaslit,” delves into his extraordinary life and tragic fall from grace. Starring stars Julia Roberts and Sean Penn, the political thriller series is based on Leon Neyfakh’s critically acclaimed podcast ‘Slow Burn’.

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