Patrick Gray III, the acting director of the FBI at the time of the Watergate break-in, ended more than three decades of silence about his role in the scandal, saying in a TV interview broadcast on Sunday that he felt shock and betrayal by the disclosure that his former deputy, Mark Felt, was Deep Throat.
In an interview on the ABC News program This Week, Gray said that he felt "like I was hit with a tremendous sledgehammer" by Felt's recent disclosure that he was the secret source for Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who broke important Watergate news relying on Felt's information.
Gray, 88, resigned from the FBI in disgrace in 1973. In the ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos, he spoke bitterly of Felt, saying that "he told me time and again he was not Deep Throat."
If he could, Gray said, he would say to Felt: "Mark, why? Why didn't you come to me? Why didn't we work it out together?"
Gray said he now realized that he failed to halt news leaks from the bureau during Watergate because Felt was in charge of stopping them.
"I think he fooled me, if you want to put it that way, Mr. Stephanopoulos, by being the perfect example of the FBI agent that he was," Gray said, according to a transcript of the interview. "He did his job well, he did it thoroughly, and I trusted him all along, and I was, I can't begin to tell you how deep was my shock and my grief when I found that it was Mark Felt."
Gray's memories of events seemed sharp and his words were punctuated by flashes of anger as he defended his actions and insisted that he had been badly misled not only by Felt but also by president Richard Nixon and his aides.
In his 1979 book, The FBI Pyramid From the Inside, Felt wrote contemptuously of Gray as an absentee director who compromised the bureau's independence by mishandling the break-in inquiry.
Of his former subordinate, Gray said in the ABC interview, "He was a smooth operator, and I can't understand how Mark could have let himself do to me what he did when I trusted him so implicitly."
Gray has most often been depicted in accounts of the Watergate period as a naive and politically pliant lawyer from Connecticut who was appointed by Nixon to head the FBI on a temporary basis after the death of J. Edgar Hoover in May 1972. The president and his aides had long feared and mistrusted the bureau.
After the bureau began investigating the break-in, Gray turned over raw FBI interview reports and lead sheets to John Dean, Nixon's counsel, who ran the effort to conceal White House ties to the Watergate burglars. Later, in the fireplace of his Connecticut home, Gray burned files that he had been given from the White House safe of E. Howard Hunt, whose phone number was found in address books of the Watergate burglars.
In the interview, Gray defended his actions, although he admitted that he erred during Watergate in temporarily holding up an investigation following the money trail to a Mexican bank when White House aides falsely told him that it might interfere with a continuing CIA operation.
Gray said he provided internal FBI investigative files to the White House only after he had been cleared to do so by the bureau's general counsel. He said he had been justified in burning the files because their contents were unrelated to Watergate.