|Jones (top) and Felt
San Francisco, June 5: Nicholas T. Jones and Jarett A. Nixon, law school classmates here, have exchanged tales about Costa Rica, where Nixon was born and Jones enjoyed travelling.
They have practiced speaking Spanish together, and at one point last year, Nixon, 28, tried to recruit Jones, 23, to work on a law journal at the school, the Hastings College of the Law. “He’s a good guy,” Nixon said of Jones. “We’ve had a friendly relationship.”
What neither man knew until the identity of Deep Throat was revealed this week, however, was that they come from opposite sides of one of the most profound divides in modern American political history.
Nixon’s great-uncle, whom he recalls fondly as Uncle Dick, was President Richard M. Nixon, a relationship he had never shared with Jones. His grandfather, Donald Nixon, was the President’s brother.
Jones’s grandfather is W. Mark Felt, the FBI source for The Washington Post who helped bring a premature end to the Nixon presidency. It was Jones who read a statement on behalf of Felt outside the family’s home in Santa Rosa, California, the first time Felt publicly acknowledged he was Deep Throat.
“When I found out who it was, it kind of put a smile on my face,” Nixon said in an interview. “It was like, ‘Hey, wait a minute, I know this guy’,” he said of Jones, “and he’s a good guy’.”
Since the intersection of their family histories came to light, the two men have not had the chance to speak to each other. Separately, though, the two men have also been trying the same difficult balancing act, staunchly defending their opposing family legacies while insisting in interviews that the past would not poison their own relationship.
Until this week, Jones said he never made the connection between his law school classmate and the former President, describing it in an interview in his driveway as “kind of fun” and a “cool and interesting factoid”.
“I still see him the same,” he said of Nixon. “I think he’s a cool guy. He seems like the kind of guy who’s going to be pretty successful in whatever he chooses to do.”
Even with the pivotal role his grandfather played in the Watergate story, Jones said he was unwilling to criticise President Nixon. He said that this is a time when “almost everyone is jumping to conclusions,” and that he did not want to do the same. “I think it’s folly, quite frankly,” he said.
Similarly, Nixon refused to pass judgment on Felt’s role as Deep Throat. He said he would have preferred if Felt had pursued his concerns about Watergate “through a more legal route,” but he had no interest in joining the debate raging on talk radio and elsewhere as to whether Felt was a hero or a traitor. He said that he had never heard of Felt until Tuesday; his family, he said, had always speculated that Deep Throat was one of his great-uncle’s secretaries.
“He made a decision and he went with it,” Nixon said of Felt. “I’m not the person to say that was something that was essentially wrong. And God knows, Uncle Dick made his mistakes too.”
When asked about the connection between Jones and Nixon, Amy DerBedrosian, a spokeswoman for Hastings College, said there was a further link. Among the graduates last year was Matthew McGovern-Rowen, the grandson of former Senator George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee.