The Meaning of Scandal
The Watergate scandal, which resulted in the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974, is the most famous political scandal in American history. It polarized Americans for nearly two years, and undermined many citizens' trust in their government. Indeed, the name "Watergate" became so synonymous with scandal that the suffix "-gate" was often used to describe subsequent political scandals, such as "Contragate," "Travelgate," and "Filegate."
The scandal began in the summer of 1972. While running for re-election as president, Nixon campaign employees broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee, located in the Watergate Building, a hotel and office complex in Washington, D.C. When American journalists began reporting on the break-in, they discovered that several close aides to the president seemed to be involved. The Nixon administration, desperate to prevent knowledge of how the break-in was planned from becoming public, engaged in a cover-up, trying to conceal evidence from members of Congress, the courts, the FBI, and the public.
The president himself attempted to force several of his aides and departments of the federal government to stop investigating the Watergate scandal. Nixon's popularity sank despite his efforts to cover-up the Watergate scandal, as more details became publicly known . In August 1974, as the House of Representatives prepared articles of impeachment against the president for misusing power and obstructing justice, he resigned. A few days later, his successor, Gerald R. Ford, pardoned Nixon for any crimes he may have committed relating to Watergate. Ford's pardon of Nixon spared the nation a public trial of a former president, but also prevented the fullest possible inquiry into the scandal. The pardon also angered some voters. It is thought to have contributed to Ford's narrow loss to Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential election.