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On Watergate anniversary, trying to piece tale back together

June 17, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Water what? The scandal that began 25 years ago today has a lot of people scratching their heads trying to remember what Watergate was all about.

``Some Contra stuff,″ offered one guesser, mixing scandals and decades.

``Gosh,″ said another. ``It’s been so long.″

Associated Press reporters around the country asked several hundred people to take a stab at explaining Watergate. Some recollections were sharp but others strayed far afield.

Here’s what really happened: Early on June 17, 1972, burglars tied to Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign broke into Democratic headquarters at the Watergate office building in Washington. They were trying to replace a faulty telephone bugging device installed during an earlier break-in. They got caught. Nixon tried to cover up the growing scandal. On Aug. 9, 1974, under threat of impeachment, he resigned.

Here’s how some Americans explain it:

_``Some people broke into a hotel and stole some documents, but for all I know they could have been Playboy magazine.″ Andre Williams, 20, Pittsburgh.

_``It was about some tapes.″ Ann Smith, 40, Cleveland.

_``Paper shredding is all I remember, basically.″ Michelle Meinhardt, 43, Baltimore.

_``They broke into Democratic headquarters and Nixon was thrown out of office on account of that.″ David Barrow, 60, Glen Burnie, Md.

_``It was the break-in of the Democratic headquarters by a semi-SWAT team hired by the Republicans to find whatever information they could. They didn’t find anything, but they got caught.″ Dion Nolcox, 34, Cleveland.

_``I remember G. Gordon Liddy, the break-in, the cover-up, the `Saturday Night Massacre,′ the eventual hearing, the call for an impeachment vote and the resignation _ Aug. 9, maybe.″ Kevin Winship, 36, Katonah, N.Y.

_``Hold on. Actually, I did a paper on this in high school. (Pause) Nixon. Someone broke into their office during an election?″ Katie Dixon, 18, Omaha.

_``I remember Woodward and Bernstein (of The Washington Post) broke it, right? I think it’s the closest a president has gotten to a potential impeachment.″ Kevin Goodland, 25, Omaha.

_``These two reporters from a Boston newspaper _ somebody snitched, Deep Throat. Isn’t that what they called him? Nixon was recording everything that happened in his office.″ Al Gordon, 50, Helena, Mont.

_``President Nixon did some illegal taping of the Democratic _ was it Republican or Democratic? _ uh, campaign headquarters.″ Greg Klein, 29, Milwaukee.

_``Nixon and all his cohorts participated concerning some wire taps, some illegal papers, some Contra stuff.″ Bruce Preston, 46, Philadelphia.

_``The real question was one asked by Senator Howard Baker: `What did the president know about this, and when did he know it?‴ Todd Miller, 35, Pittsburgh.

_``It was in 1974 and it involved Nixon. Gosh, it’s been so long.″ Larry Barlish, 48, Kansas City, Mo.

_``It’s about people in power wanting to stay in power by finding out what people not in power were up to.″ Donnalee Lozeau, 36, Nashua, N.H., deputy speaker, state House of Representatives.

_``It was a terribly, little, dirty trick, which they were all good at, and now they all have their own talk shows.″ Dean Riddlebarger, 36, Indianapolis.

_``There was this guy named Richard Nixon. During his second bid for office, he had some ... Cuban robbers break into Watergate, where the Democratic national headquarters just happened to be. There were these missing tapes and a bunch of congressional hearings. Then Nixon resigned.″ Sarah Hubbard, 19, Ruidoso, N.M.

_``During the campaign, Nixon made an ambiguous statement saying that he wanted to have a more active role with campaign intelligence. I think it was G. Gordon Liddy that took that the wrong way and began to use dirty tactics and eventually broke into _ I think he was the psychiatrist of the other candidate’s office.″ Alex Jermyn, 21, Ambler, Pa.

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