Heard on the Hill

The Newspaperman

Members share memories of Ben Bradlee as HBO biopic premieres in D.C.

Ben Bradlee speaks during a question and answer session at the 30th anniversary screening of “All The President’s Men” in New York in 2005. (Brad Barket/Getty Images file photo)

HBO’s “The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee” premieres on the network Dec. 4. Some VIPs in D.C. got a sneak peak Wednesday.

Bradlee guided the paper as it peeled away the layers of the Watergate scandal, which toppled the presidency of Richard Nixon. Reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward told the story in their book “All the President’s Men,” later adapted for the film of the same name. 

We asked some members of Congress for their recollections of the legendary newspaperman, who died in 2014.

Rep. Cheri Bustos“My first interaction with Ben Bradlee was through the movie screen, watching ‘All the President’s Men.’ It was 1976, I was a squirrelly teenager, not quite yet ready to get my driver’s license, but I followed the news as closely as any kid. I was enthralled not just by Woodward and Bernstein, but equally with Ben Bradlee.

“He was suave, debonair, and had the kind of guts my own Dad, a former newspaperman, had.  He fought and argued his way to getting the truth out. I so admired him. And I wanted to be him — and Woodward and Bernstein all rolled into one.

“I would go on, inspired by the uncovering of the wrongdoing in the Watergate scandal, to be a newspaper reporter and an editor, as well.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi“It is a great honor to celebrate the life of Ben Bradlee: a truth-teller, legendary editor and standard-bearer for journalistic integrity. His courage in defying the Nixon Administration to publish the Pentagon Papers — and later in defending his reporters amid threats from some of America’s most powerful people — remains an inspiration not only to all journalists but to all who believe in a free press.

“It was always a joy to be in the presence of Ben and his beloved wife Sally and to witness their love and pride in raising their beautiful family.”

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter: “What the Washington Post did under Ben Bradlee’s leadership to uncover the Watergate scandal was amazing. I think it spurred generations of young people to go into journalism. The most important thing in maintaining a healthy democratic government is a free and active press.” 

Rep. John Yarmuth: “Ben Bradlee taught me, as he did so many other young journalists, just how important it is to stick your neck out when it matters and take risks in your reporting. Throughout his long career, his work was a powerful guide of how necessary it is to put it all on the line sometimes — to do something that might hurt your career or hurt your publication — so long as it was in search of the truth. I admired him greatly and look forward to seeing this new HBO documentary on his life.”

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.