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“Late Returns,” cartoon by Herblock [Herbert L. Block], May 18, 1973

Cartoonist Herblock noted the impact of the Watergate Committee hearings, televised in their entirety from March 28 through August 7, 1973. With an estimated 85 percent of American households watching some portion of the investigation, the committee’s unbiased inquiry enhanced public respect for Congress. Above the television, Herblock ironically portrayed President Richard Nixon celebrating his 1972 reelection campaign victory.

A 1957 Herblock Cartoon, © The Herb Block Foundation. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

“Late Returns,” cartoon by Herblock [Herbert L. Block], May 18, 1973

The Watergate Break-in

On June 17, 1972, police arrested burglars in the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. Evidence linked the break-in to President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign. In February 1973 the Senate established a select committee chaired by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina to investigate the 1972 presidential election. The Senate investigation revealed the existence of audiotapes, the content of which proved incriminating to President Nixon, and ultimately led to his resignation. Nationally televised, the Watergate Committee hearings boosted public confidence in Congress.

This committee can serve another quite important function that neither a grand jury investigation nor a jury proceeding is equipped to serve, and that is to develop the facts in full view of all the people of America.

Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee, Hearings before the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, May 17, 1973