Bob Woodward says hate is country’s biggest problem


Luke Fountain

Bob Woodward answered questions from Toni Locy, a journalism professor.

Brianna Hatch, Editor-in-Chief

For Bob Woodward, the most pressing issue in American politics today is summed up in a one-word punch: hate.

“Hate is an acceptable way of dealing with the opposition, and I think that’s a normal catastrophe for this country,” said Woodward, the longtime investigative journalist who broke the Watergate scandal story in 1973.

Woodward spoke to students, parents and community members at Washington and Lee on Sept. 29 about the state of American politics today — and what journalists can, and should, do about it.

The current associate editor of The Washington Post has received two Pulitzer Prizes, one for covering Watergate and the other for reporting on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

He has also written 21 books, tracking the last 10 presidents from Nixon to Biden. Through his years of coverage, one common trend stood out: the growing concentration of power in the presidency.

When asked why he always writes about presidents, Woodward said: “Because that’s where the power is.”

Former President Donald Trump is a frequent interviewee for Woodward. He’s written three books on the Trump presidency, including his most recent 2021 release, Peril, which covers the transition period from Trump to President Joseph Biden.

To Woodward, there is “no question” that Trump “encouraged” the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“To get a thousand people to do that is stunning,” he said.

But in a post-Trump era fueled by disinformation, Woodward sees a call-to-action for young journalists.

“All of this is very difficult for a voter to sort out,” he said. “So we need to be more comprehensive as reporters.”

Reporting needs to be evidence-based, he stressed. And now more than ever, journalists need to hold government entities accountable.

“The Supreme Court kind of thinks they have special immunity from journalists, and I don’t think they do,” Woodward said. “And I don’t think they should.”

Woodward is transparent about the times as a reporter where he made mistakes. But he also knows his strength: getting people to talk.

And the key is having the time to establish a “transaction of trust,” he said.