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Why ‘Watergate’ Doesn’t Mention President Trump

Charles Ferguson’s documentary, premiering on History tonight, ignores the elephant in the White House

Charles Ferguson’s new documentary “Watergate – Or: How We Learned to Stop an Out of Control President” doesn’t mention the current inhabitant of the White House — because it doesn’t need to.

You can listen to Ferguson explain why in our “Shoot This Now” podcast interview on Apple or above.

In an interview with Ferguson last month, we asked him if Sen. John McCain, a longtime critic of Trump, spoke on camera for “Watergate” to send a message to Trump that you can take down an out-of-control president.

“Absolutely. No question. I very deliberately did not ask him about Donald Trump,” Ferguson said. “For similar reasons, the name Donald Trump does not appear anywhere in the film. There’s no direct allusion to our current situation. But it was very obviously on Mr. McCain’s mind.”

Ferguson’s film, which enjoyed an Oscar qualifying run in theaters before coming to the History Channel, has not linked Nixon to Trump because many viewers have drawn their own parallels.

Ferguson elaborated in a statement on History’s website. It reads in part:

Regardless of one’s views about Donald J. Trump, it is inescapable that the United States is now gripped by a crisis whose parallels with Watergate grow closer every day. A country divided by social and racial tension; a President at war with the media; illegal eavesdropping by Russian hackers of Democratic candidates and campaigns; attempted subversion of a Presidential election via fake news; investigations by special prosecutors; firings of those in charge of investigating the President; secret tapes of Presidential conversations; former advisors turning witness under pressure from prosecutors – the echoes of Watergate are undeniable.

I could not ignore these parallels, but I also felt strongly (and still feel) that I shouldn’t pander to them either. Watergate does not contain a single word about Donald Trump, Russian hacking, the Mueller investigation, Michael Cohen’s tapes, or any reference to current events. But what I did do was show how the American system worked and did not work, and why.

History’s three-night “Watergate” event begins tonight, Nov. 2, at 9/8c.