A Look Back at the Senate Watergate Hearings

The Watergate hearings began on May 17, 1973. Public Television aired all 250 hours of testimony that summer. Here are some of the highlights. Video edited by Justin Scuiletti

The Watergate scandal began with a burglary in June 1972 and ended with a president’s resignation in August 1974. During the summer of 1973, a special Senate Committee held hearings, co-chaired by Sens. Sam Ervin, D-N.C., and Howard Baker, R-Tenn., to investigate the burglaries and whether “illegal, improper or unethical activities” had been committed in connection to President Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign for re-election.

Public television aired all 250 hours of the hearings, gavel-to-gavel. The parade of witnesses and testimony, from former White House counsel John Dean’s allegation that President Nixon knew about the cover-up of the burglary, to former presidential aide Alexander Butterfield’s revelation that there were tapes that could prove it, shocked the country and ultimately led Nixon to resign from office — the only time an American president has done so. Here are some of the highlights from those remarkable hearings.


The PBS NewsHour is marking the 40th anniversary of the Watergate hearings with reflections from Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer, who covered the hearings gavel-to-gavel. Watch their conversation with senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown on Friday’s NewsHour.