George Gordon Battle Liddy (born November 30, 1930), better known as G. Gordon Liddy, is an American lawyer who is best known as the chief operative in the White House Plumbers unit that existed from July to September 1971, during Richard Nixon's presidency. He was convicted of conspiracy, burglary, and illegal wiretapping for his role in the Watergate scandal.
Separately, along with E. Howard Hunt, Liddy organized and directed the burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate building in May and June 1972. After five of Liddy's operatives were arrested inside the DNC offices on June 17, 1972, subsequent investigations of the Watergate scandal led to Nixon's resignation in 1974. Liddy was convicted of burglary, conspiracy and refusing to testify to the Senate committee investigating Watergate. He served nearly fifty-two months in federal prisons.
Liddy later joined with (former Harvard University professor) Timothy Leary for a series of popular debates on various college campuses, and similarly worked with Al Franken in the late 1990s. Liddy served as a radio talk show host from 1992 until his retirement on July 27, 2012. His radio show as of 2009 was syndicated in 160 markets by Radio America and on both Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio stations in the United States. He has been a guest panelist for Fox News Channel in addition to appearing in a cameo role or as a guest celebrity talent in several television shows.
Youth, family, education
Liddy was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Sylvester James Liddy and Maria (née Abbaticchio). Largely of Irish descent, his maternal grandfather was of Italian descent. Liddy was raised in Hoboken and West Caldwell, New Jersey. He was named for George Gordon Battle, a New York City attorney and Tammany Hall DA nominee who had mentored Liddy's father.
Liddy spent grades 1 through 3 at the Academy of the Sacred Heart. He was enrolled in the fourth grade at SS Peter and Paul Parochial School. He was enrolled in St. Aloysius Parochial School at the sixth grade level in September 1941. He graduated in 1944 and in September of that year he entered Saint Benedict's Preparatory School in Newark, New Jersey, from which he graduated in June 1948, aged 17.
College, military, law school
He was educated at Fordham University, graduating in 1952. While at Fordham he was a member of the National Society of Pershing Rifles. Following graduation, Liddy joined the United States Army, serving for two years as an artillery officer during the Korean War. He remained stateside for medical reasons. He returned to New York City in 1954 to attend Fordham University School of Law, earning a position on the Fordham Law Review. After graduating from law school in 1957, he went to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under J. Edgar Hoover.
Liddy joined the FBI in 1957, initially serving as a field agent in Indiana and Denver. In Denver, on September 10, 1960, Liddy apprehended Ernest Tait, one of two persons to be a two-time Ten Most Wanted fugitive. At age 29, Liddy became the youngest Bureau Supervisor at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.. A protege of deputy director Cartha DeLoach, Liddy became part of director J. Edgar Hoover's personal staff and became his ghostwriter. Amongst his fellow agents he had a reputation for recklessness and was known primarily for two incidents. The first was an arrest in Kansas City, Missouri during a black bag job; he was released after calling Clarence M. Kelley, former FBI agent and chief of the Kansas City Police. The second was running an FBI background check on his future wife before their marriage in 1957, which Liddy later referred to as "purely a routine precautionary measure."
Before leaving the FBI Liddy pursued his contacts for bar admissions. In an example of the ironies played by history, his admission to the United States Supreme Court was moved by Solicitor General Archibald Cox.
Prosecutor and politician
Liddy resigned from the FBI in 1962 and worked as a lawyer in New York City until 1966. He was hired by then district attorney Raymond Baratta as a prosecutor in Dutchess County, New York after interviewing and providing references from the FBI. In 1966, he led a drug raid on Timothy Leary's Milbrook estate which resulted in an unsuccessful trial. The case generated much publicity though other lawyers complained Liddy received credit for something in which he played a relatively small role. He was also reprimanded for firing a revolver at the ceiling in a courtroom. A politically motivated drug raid on Bard College involved, among others, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who later formed the band Steely Dan and wrote the song "My Old School" about the raid. Liddy is mentioned in the lyrics as "Daddy Gee."
He ran unsuccessfully for the post of District Attorney. In 1968, he ran for the United States House of Representatives in New York's 28th congressional district, running under the slogan "Gordon Liddy doesn't bail them out; he puts them in", but lost to Hamilton Fish IV in a close race. He then worked with Egil "Bud" Krogh, Gordon Strachan and David Young, all aides to John D. Ehrlichman, Assistant to the President For Domestic Affairs. He then attained the post, in 1972, of General Counsel, Finance Committee of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP),. In Sept. 1973 Krogh, Liddy, Young and Erlichman were indicted for conspiracy to commit burglary.
White House undercover operative
In 1971, after serving in several positions in the Nixon administration, Liddy was moved to Nixon's 1972 campaign, the CRP, in order to extend the scope and reach of the White House "Plumbers" unit, which had been created in response to various damaging leaks of information to the press. His formal title at CRP was general counsel of the finance operation.
At CRP, Liddy concocted several plots in early 1972, collectively known under the title "Operation Gemstone". Some of these were far-fetched, intended to embarrass the Democratic opposition. These included kidnapping anti-war protest organizers and transporting them to Mexico during the Republican National Convention (which at the time was planned for San Diego), as well as luring mid-level Democratic campaign officials to a house boat in Baltimore, where they would be secretly photographed in compromising positions with prostitutes. Most of Liddy's ideas were rejected by Attorney General John N. Mitchell, but a few were given the go-ahead by Nixon Administration officials, including the 1971 break-in at Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office in Los Angeles. Ellsberg had leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. At some point, Liddy was instructed to break into the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate Complex.
Liddy was the Nixon Administration liaison and leader of the group of five men who broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Complex. At least two separate entries were made in May and June 1972; the burglars were caught and apprehended on June 17. The purposes of the break-in were never conclusively established. The burglars sought to place wiretaps and planned to photograph documents. Their first attempt had led to improperly-functioning recording devices being installed. Liddy did not actually enter the Watergate Complex; rather, he admitted to supervising the second break-in which he coordinated with E. Howard Hunt, from a room in the adjacent Watergate Hotel. Liddy was convicted of conspiracy, burglary and illegal wiretapping.
Liddy was sentenced to a 20-year prison term and was ordered to pay $40,000 in fines. He began serving the sentence on January 30, 1973. On April 12, 1977, President Jimmy Carter commuted Liddy's sentence to eight years, "in the interest of equity and fairness based on a comparison of Mr. Liddy's sentence with those of all others convicted in Watergate related prosecutions", leaving the fine in effect. Carter's commutation made Liddy eligible for parole as of July 9, 1977. Liddy was released on September 7, 1977, after serving a total of four and a half years of incarceration.
In 1980, Liddy published an autobiography, titled Will, which sold more than a million copies and was made into a television movie. In it he states that he once made plans with Hunt to kill journalist Jack Anderson, based on a literal interpretation of a Nixon White House statement "we need to get rid of this Anderson guy".
In the mid-1980s Liddy went on the lecture circuit, being listed as the top speaker on the college circuit in 1982 by The Wall Street Journal. He later joined with LSD proponent Timothy Leary on a series of debates billed as Nice Scary Guy vs Scary Nice Guy, which were popular on the college circuit as well; Leary had once been labeled by Liddy's ex-employer Richard Nixon as "the most dangerous man in America." Liddy remained in the public eye with two guest appearances on the television series Miami Vice as William "Captain Real Estate" Maynard, a shadowy former covert operations officer whom Sonny Crockett knew from his military service in South Vietnam.
He appeared in the 1993 Golden Book Video release of Encyclopedia Brown: The Case of the Burgled Baseball Cards as Corky Lodato. In Miami Vice, he acted with John Diehl, who would later go on to portray Liddy himself in Oliver Stone's 1995 movie Nixon. Liddy's other TV guest credits include Airwolf, MacGyver and the short-lived The Highwayman. Comic book author Alan Moore has stated that the character of The Comedian (Edward Blake) from his graphic novel Watchmen was based in part on Liddy. In the 1979 TV adaptation of John Dean's book Blind Ambition, Liddy was played by actor William Daniels.
In the early 1980s, Liddy joined forces with former Niles, Illinois, policeman and co-owner of The Protection Group, Ltd., , to launch a private security and countersurveillance firm called G. Gordon Liddy & Associates. The firm was not a success, filing for bankruptcy on November 12, 1988.
In 1992, he emerged to host his own talk radio show. Less than a year later, its popularity led to national syndication through Viacom's Westwood One Network and through Radio America, in 2003. Liddy's show ended on July 27, 2012.
In addition to Will, he wrote the nonfiction books, When I Was a Kid, This Was a Free Country (2002), and Fight Back! Tackling Terrorism, Liddy Style (2006, with his son, Cdr. James G. Liddy, along with J. Michael Barrett and Joel Selanikio). He also published two novels: Out of Control (1979) and The Monkey Handlers (1990). His novels did not sell as well as his non-fiction works.
Liddy acted in several films, including Street Asylum, Feds, Adventures in Spying, Camp Cucamonga, and Rules of Engagement. He appeared on such television shows as The Highwayman, Airwolf, Fear Factor, Perry Mason, and MacGyver. He had a recurring role on Miami Vice, and guest starred in Al Franken's LateLine. On April 7, 1986, he appeared at WrestleMania II as a guest judge for a boxing match between Mr. T (with Joe Frazier, The Haiti Kid) versus Roddy Piper (with Bob Orton and Lou Duva).
Liddy co-starred on 18 Wheels of Justice as the crime boss Jacob Calder from January 12, 2000 – June 6, 2001.
Liddy appeared on a celebrity edition Fear Factor, the show's series finale, on September 12, 2006 (filmed in November 2005). At 75 years of age, Liddy was the oldest contestant ever to appear on the show. Liddy beat the competition in the first two stunts, winning two motorcycles custom built by Metropolitan Chopper. In the final driving stunt, Liddy crashed and was unable to finish.
Liddy was married to Frances Purcell-Liddy, a native of Poughkeepsie, New York, for 53 years until her death on February 5, 2010. She was an educator. The couple had five children and twelve grandchildren.