“The Martha Mitchell Effect,” is a documentary you can see currently on Netflix. While watching this film, which shows her relationship to bringing down President Nixon, in the Watergate scandal, I began to glean some thoughts about her marriage as well. Martha was married to John Mitchell, appointed as Attorney General, under President Nixon. John was previously a law partner with Richard Nixon, before he became president. John and Martha were married until her death but were separated in 1973, as a result of the Watergate scandal. In fact, President Nixon, scapegoats Martha, in a David Frost interview, by saying that there would have been no Watergate, if it weren’t for Martha. As if she were the one who orchestrated the entire affair. President Nixon colluded with John Mitchell, and others in Watergate. During their cover-up, her husband ordered an ex-FBI agent to keep her silent. This involved kidnapping and violently assaulting Martha.
The documentary is not about John being what appears to be a narcissist. It would take some time for the film to really focus on what exactly he said on the Nixon tapes; which were confiscated during the investigation. Once I heard his actual words though, I began to think about this more clearly. If a man is choosing to go against his wife and make fun of her once, he has more than likely accomplished this twice. It shows a lack of respect on his part, to collude, in the way he did, with his wife’s downfall. It is rather disturbing that he chose to focus on himself first and his wife last. He orchestrated Watergate – one of the men involved in the break-in was his bodyguard. Of course, we now know all of these things now and that President Nixon was very clear that this was going on – as discussed in the infamous tapes.
I am going by this documentary and the Wikipedia profile that I read about Martha, to determine a possible explanation about this marriage, in relation to narcissism. It does not take that much for me to figure these things out when I hear the voice of a person in quotes or on tapes or in a documentary. Prior to the scandal, what you can see from this film is that Martha was a typical 1950’s housewife. She was honorably serving her husband and in politics, the Republican party. Yes, she was a bit mouthy and it would probably be considered unethical that she gossiped to journalists after purposely looking through her husband’s paperwork. I am not saying she was perfect. However, I feel a tinge of empathy for these gals who were sold out; by their husbands. Looking at the footage of her (facial expressions, body language), post realization that he had been responsible, I felt a strong need to support her by writing this piece today. I could see she was shocked, by learning what her husband was really like; for the first time.
There is a book about her, written by a journalist named Winzola McLendon, who knew her well during those years. It is entitled “Martha: The Life of Martha Mitchell.” It is out of print, though you can spend $500 at Abebooks if you want to get a copy – post documentary release. I’ll pass for now. I’d love to learn more about her, as this is the first time for me to hear a woman was involved in the Watergate scandal. I’d love to know more about the fact that she has been hidden, until this documentary, even though she risked her life to help bring to light these activities.
She divorced her first husband on August 1, 1957 and married John, on December 30, 1957. She had separated from the first husband in May of 1956. This does not provide a lot of time to meet a man and get to know someone you are about to marry. Partners, however, did marry quickly back in that time period. This is not unusual. She is quoted as saying that she was “impressed with his suaveness and intellect.” This quote is something any woman could say about a man they are attracted to. Yet, it is the downfall of their marriage that makes me curious about what was going on all along. Her quote sheds a different light on, perhaps, a man who was trying to reel someone in. What more happened though?
Both married for the second time. He had a career as a military officer in the Navy and was an attorney when she met him. She was already the mother of a son and they would go on to have a daughter as well. Looking, also on Wikipedia, at a quick glance at his shenanigans, I see a ruthless man – though typical for this time period – not without shame and blame even then. I see a man who could not be trusted, unless you were on his side. And, he was a party player whose whims changed when the boxes to check-off flipped. Martha spoke favorably about him in the press. She was very loyal, even to the end, until she realized he was involved. A narcissist will allow you to be yourself – as long as you are putting them on a pedestal. The minute you bring the truth to light, you have attacked their pathological reality. They can be dangerous, as mentioned above by setting up a kidnapping and an assault.
They separated once she brought this scandal to light and according to the documentary and the Wikipedia profile, he did not provide her with enough to live on. She became ill, very quickly, and died three years later from advanced multiple myeloma. Martha had begun to write her memoirs, shortly after leaving her husband, though was afraid she would get “no” money and put an end to this. I would like to know what happened to those papers and if her biographer used them in the book I mentioned previously. A narcissist, is extremely difficult to leave and divorce. He took their daughter, though I haven’t read any reports of where she went while he was in prison for 19 months. And, because he was in prison, a more proper diagnosis might be Anti-Social Personality Disorder (at least) vs. Narcissistic Personality Disorder, since he was convicted of a crime. Still, the narcissistic traits are part of ASPD.
I am also aware that there is a TV Series entitled “Gaslit,” with Julia Roberts and Sean Penn. It is based on the story of Martha and John Mitchell’s marriage leading up to Watergate and the separation. However, listening to these stars talk in an interview, as if there was a loving or romantic relationship between the two, made me not want to see the show. It is not unusual for Hollywood, (though I am very surprised that these two outspoken liberal/feminist celebrities would not get the narcissistic connection), would keep us in the dark, when they are trying to feature a love story vs. the truth. When you look at films such as Carousel, Corridor of Mirrors, Wuthering Heights and even modern stories like Urban Cowboy – if they want to sell a movie they focus on the “love” factor not what is really happening. This is why we have to keep our eyes “wide open,” and our minds conscious of what we are actually seeing.
Take a peek at the trailer above and spend the 40 minutes watching the film on Netflix. An enlightening take on Watergate and now, consider that she was in a trauma bond with a narcissist.