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Poisoning The Press [Hardcover]

Mark Feldstein

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Book Description

Sept. 28 2010

It is March 1972, and the Nixon White House wants Jack Anderson dead.

The syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, the most famous and feared investigative reporter in the nation, has exposed yet another of the President’s dirty secrets. Nixon’s operatives are ordered to “stop Anderson at all costs”—permanently. Across the street from the White House, they huddle in a hotel basement to conspire. Should they try “Aspirin Roulette” and break into Anderson’s home to plant a poisoned pill in one of his medicine bottles? Could they smear LSD on the journalist’s steering wheel, so that he would absorb it through his skin, lose control of his car, and crash? Or stage a routine-looking mugging, making Anderson appear to be one more fatal victim of Washington’s notorious street crime?

Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of Washington’s Scandal Culture recounts not only the disturbing story of an unprecedented White House conspiracy to assassinate a journalist, but also the larger tale of the bitter quarter-century battle between the postwar era’s most embattled politician and its most reviled newsman. The struggle between Nixon and Anderson included bribery, blackmail, forgery, spying, and burglary as well as the White House murder plot. Their vendetta symbolized and accelerated the growing conflict between the government and the press, a clash that would long outlive both men.

Mark Feldstein traces the arc of this confrontation between a vindictive president and a flamboyant, crusading muckraker who rifled through garbage and swiped classified papers in pursuit of his prey—stoking the paranoia in Nixon that would ultimately lead to his ruin. The White House plot to poison Anderson, Feldstein argues, is a metaphor for the poisoned political atmosphere that would follow, and the toxic sensationalism that contaminates contemporary media discourse.

Melding history and biography, Poisoning the Press unearths significant new information from more than two hundred interviews and thousands of declassified documents and tapes. This is a chronicle of political intrigue and the true price of power for politicians and journalists alike. The result—Washington’s modern scandal culture—was Richard Nixon’s ultimate revenge.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: FSG Adult; First Edition edition (Sept. 28 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374235309
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374235307
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 721 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,368,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“The rise and fall of Jack Anderson is a newspaper story that needed to be told, as Mark Feldstein has done brilliantly. But there is an even more compelling saga tucked inside this book—Anderson versus President Richard Nixon. Feldstein has given us the disgraced Nixon at his best and worst, and in his own words—scatological, criminal, paranoid, and willing to do anything to rid himself of Anderson’s sensational reporting.” —Seymour Hersh, author of Chain of Command

“Mark Feldstein’s compelling reconstruction of the Richard Nixon-Jack Anderson conflict is a groundbreaking history of modern political skulduggery and media scandalmongering. There are no heroes in Feldstein’s book—only the ugly truth about two men who had a lasting impact on American politics and journalism. Poisoning the Press is required reading for anyone interested in the current world of Washington politics and media.” —Robert Dallek, author of Lyndon B. Johnson and An Unfinished Life

Poisoning the Press is an important book. It couldn’t be more timely and deserves widespread readership . . . [There’s] masterful research and reporting rivetingly written . . . Besides that, it reads like a thriller. Pick it up and you’re not likely to be able to put it down.” —Dan Rather, host of Dan Rather Reports

“I lived through a lot of this while working for Jack Anderson and found it a fascinating and evenhanded account.” —Brit Hume, senior political analyst, FOX News

“When gutter politics are practiced, gutter journalism may be democracy’s last line of defense. In Poisoning the Press, Mark Feldstein eviscerates the two giants of those black arts, Richard Nixon and Jack Anderson . . . A superbly told, hilarious tale, which will also scare the hell out of you.”  Morley Safer, 60 Minutes correspondent

Poisoning the Press is a stunning tale of political and journalistic dirty tricks. Mark Feldstein reveals how the news is often manufactured in the nation’s capital, and how Washington’s most feared investigative reporter exposed serious abuses of power even while he smeared his targets with sexual innuendo. More significant still, this enthralling account explains the larger story of how our modern era of political scandal was born.” —Michael Isikoff, national investigative correspondent, NBC News

“Mark Feldstein’s Poisoning the Press is a crucially important, brilliantly illuminating work of intense scholarship. As presented in these pages, the legendary feud between Richard Nixon and Jack Anderson reads like a potboiler. It’s essential reading for anybody interested in postwar America. A monumental achievement!” —Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History, Rice University, and author of The Wilderness Warrior

Poisoning the Press is a fast-paced tour de force. Riveting and often eye-popping, Mark Feldstein’s revelations take us right into the Oval Office, where President Nixon plotted the destruction of his relentless nemesis, columnist Jack Anderson. Feldstein’s voluminous research doesn’t flinch from Anderson’s seamier side, but at his best, the muckraker held the powerful accountable through the kind of investigative journalism often missing in an era of disappearing newspapers and dwindling news budgets.” —Cokie Roberts, news analyst, ABC and NPR, and author of Ladies of Liberty

About the Author

Mark Feldstein, who teaches media and public affairs at George Washington University, was an investigative correspondent for CNN, ABC, and other news outlets for two decades, earning dozens of journalism awards, including an Edward R. Murrow Broadcasting Award, an Alfred I. Dupont–Columbia University Award, and two George Foster Peabody Awards. He received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and a doctorate from the University of North Carolina.

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable, fair and not without empathy Sept. 28 2010
By D. K. Daniel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This detailed portrait of one of the longest and ugliest feuds in Washington and its impact on today's politics and media is a page-turner. Feldstein's book is a rematch of sorts featuring two old warriors, and Nixon still comes out looking the worst. But Jack Anderson takes a pretty good beating, too. I thought I knew Anderson's story - and Nixon's. Not entirely, it turns out. "Poisoning the Press" shows a side of Anderson I hadn't seen in the late muckraker's own books. And as far as Nixon goes, Feldstein offers even more reasons to view Nixon as a deeply flawed man brought down by his own moral failings. The conversations that went on in the Oval Office - many are detailed for the first time by the author via the infamous tapes - are chilling because of the setting and the players. (Does anyone still argue that Nixon didn't know what was going on with Watergate and other criminal activities within the White House?) Anderson was never a saint, but I was surprised that he was corruptible, at least in the journalistic sense. In many ways Anderson and Nixon shared the fatal flaw of believing that they were doing right even when they were doing wrong.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Frightening but gripping Jan. 12 2011
By Write Away - Published on Amazon.com
Dr. Feldstein's book is a compelling chronicle of two ambitious and flawed men who spent the greater part of their respective careers battling each other. It was a fun read made even more so by the fact that I vaguely remember much of what is discussed (I was a child during the Nixon administration). Seeing so many familiar political names, Nixon operatives who later wound up in the Reagan and Bush II administrations, was disturbing. Dr. Feldstein makes a strong case for the agenda these folks have been following for 40 years and it doesn't reflect well on our democracy.
By the time the reader closes this book he or she is disgusted with both Nixon and Anderson; the former particularly, who comes across as a foul-mouthed borderline psychopath. Anderson is sympathetic until the point that he abandons his objectivity and honesty in a pointless pursuit of Thomas Eagleton. Having completed the book, I would like to find another straight biography of both men, especially Nixon--a strictly historical account, including positive qualities and accomplishments, written by an author who is simply reporting history and not presenting and explaining a theory (well-founded though it may be).
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book Dec 7 2010
By Kathryn Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
This is a very interesting book about a fascinating time in history. The author has a wonderful writing style. His ability to tell a story kept my interest from page one. He reminded me of many aspects of the Nixon presidency I have long forgotten and provided much I'd never heard before. I highly recommend this book. I had a great time reading it. Thanks Feldstein.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You MUST Read This Book April 8 2011
By Jorge Martinez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was born during the second Nixon presidency (1973) and I was always interested in the Watergate scandal. Turns out that this was just the tip of the corruption iceberg and it makes you wonder, how much have Washington politics changed since then? However, the focus of the book is Mr. Jack Anderson, a new hero of mine. If we had at least a fistful of journalists with a fraction of this guy's tenacity, cleverness and courage, the People would count on really being INFORMED. Corrupt politicians and business men feared Anderson and such fear was healthy because, if it did not keep them entirely honest, it set some boundaries. In my native Puerto Rico, we have had a number of political corruption scandals during the past few years and an Anderson-type figure is sorely needed.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading Oct. 16 2010
By Margaret - Published on Amazon.com
The names, the places, the incidents were all in the wind during the 60's and 70's. Feldstein's book makes it all real in a way it was not when this young person lived through it. It is an amazing story which painfully focuses the reality of today's media vs. government mentality. The sad legacy of the Nixon years is our virtually complete distrust of our government. An excellent, necessary book.

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