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Looking back at the life of the unapologetic criminal behind Watergate, G. Gordon Liddy

He was part political provocateur, part ruthless operator. Best known for his role in the Watergate break-in, which ultimately led to the downfall of President Richard Nixon. Lisa Desjardins has the story of G. Gordon Liddy, who died Tuesday not far from Washington.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    He was one part political provocateur, one part ruthless operator, best known for his role in the Watergate break-in, which ultimately led to the downfall of President Richard Nixon.

    Lisa Desjardins has the story of G. Gordon Liddy, who died yesterday not far from Washington.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    An unapologetic criminal, conservative firebrand and broadcast showman, G. Gordon Liddy held a unique place in American politics.

    After time in the Army, the young New Yorker rose quickly as an FBI agent and then prosecutor. In 1968, he joined the Richard Nixon presidential campaign, managing a local campaign office. Once Nixon was in the White House, Liddy springboarded into a job in Washington.

    It was the time of the Vietnam War and the leak of the Pentagon Papers questioning the war. The Nixon administration tapped Liddy to join a group nicknamed the Plumbers to investigate leaks. That led directly to perhaps the greatest presidential scandal in American history.

  • Man:

    How high did the scandals reach, and was President Nixon himself involved?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Liddy masterminded the idea of breaking in and wiretapping the Democratic National Committee's headquarters inside the Watergate complex in Washington.

    When his burglars bungled it, the case directly led to Liddy. As Congress investigated, the so-called smoking gun audiotape connected Nixon himself here talking about Liddy.

  • Richard Nixon:

    Is it Liddy? Is that the fellow? He must be a little nuts.

  • H.R. Haldeman:

    He is.

  • Richard Nixon:

    I mean, he just isn't well screwed on, is he?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Nixon resigned. Liddy went to prison for more than four years. After he was out, Liddy added to his reputation as a conservative outlier, bragging about his role in Watergate, as well as his own toughness. He sought the spotlight.

  • G. Gordon Liddy:

    Sonny Crockett.

  • Don Johnson:

    Hello, sir.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Including a part on TV's "Miami Vice."

    Then, in the 1990s, his voice gained new following as a force in conservative talk radio.

  • G. Gordon Liddy:

    And we're back here in Radio Free D.C., "The G. Gordon Liddy Show."

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    On air, Liddy used a sharp mind to launch a blunt verbal war, comparing liberals to terrorists and pushing a "might means right and ends justifies the means" philosophy.

    Opponents heard a dangerous voice with fascist ideas. Liddy, defiant, put his outlook like this: "Once you start a war, you have to win the war."

    G. Gordon Liddy was 90 years old.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.

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