A Complete Rundown of Some of the United States’ Greatest Political Scandals

The Post, directed by Stephen Spielberg, and starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, has once again sparked public interest in the vast history of covering up scandals and holding secrets. Its violation of the First Amendment, an amendment so dear and national for the American people, sheds light on the various other cases that show that the behind-the-scenes of US politics isn’t as red, blue, and white as it seems. From the Pentagon Papers to Plamegate, here are a compiled list of some of the scandals that rocked US history, though there were many more that marked a spot in the lead up to them.

Pentagon Papers

The papers were officially titled United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defence, outlining the history of US involvement in Vietnam, 1945-1967, including the controversial involvement and aggression of the Vietnam War. The papers were first released and brought to public attention of existence by Daniel Ellsberg, who had worked on the study and was the source for The New York Times, the first newspaper to publish information on the papers. The papers revealed the lengths of discretion the US government went through to hide the truth from the public for more than 30 years, outlining various events that had not been known to the public, such as multiple bombings of neighbouring Cambodia and Laos. The event brought further infamy to President Nixon’s name, seeing as he first decided to do nothing about the public release of the papers, as they only criticised the Johnson and Kennedy administrations until attention came to his administration and how they had been continuing the long and historical trend. This event also marks a place in media history, in which the question of media’s right to the First Amendment was questioned, in the case of which it may be harmful to state security. The Times was forced to cease publication after three pieces on the papers, and soon came The Washington Post, who also published an in-depth article on the intricacy of the event. In 1971, the media won 6-3 by the Supreme Court, as the government failed to show how the release of the papers could harm international and national security.

Watergate Papers

The scandal initiated with five men breaking into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex. The FBI was soon able to discover a connection between the cash found with the burglars and the fund used by the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (CRP), though Nixon’s administration continuously denied having any relations with the event. The scandal probed the FBI to look further into Nixon’s administration and found that there were many people of prominent positions abusing their powers. It fueled the media to discuss the notion of impeachment, following the initiation of the process of impeachment, and then finally, Nixon’s resignation.


This scandal occurred during the second term of the Reagan administration. Senior officials of the administration were secretly facilitating weapons to Iran, though there was an arms embargo. The event happened with the intent of freeing the several American hostages being held in Lebanon by Hezbollah, in which the scheme was to have Israel ship weapons to Iran and then have the Israeli government resupplied with funds going to the United States. These funds would then be redirected to fund the Contras in Nicaragua to build arms against the socialist government of Nicaragua.

Trump Censorship

Other than wanting to censor several words in the scientific world, Trump has gone to significant lengths to ensure that the media “knows its place.” In October of 2017, Trump took to Twitter (in the common Trumpian way) to voice his concern on “fake news,” targeting, in particular, all news outlets that published unflattering material on him and his administration, making it a large scale attack on freedom of speech. He indirectly claimed that all information that shed “negative light” on him was “fake news.” He even considered ordering the Intelligence Committee investigating various news outlets, to ensure that there is not more “fake news” in America.

Trump-Russia Relations

With multiple collusion allegations added to the Trump administrations impressive resume, it seems that there is nothing short of surprises in this presidency. The FBI continues to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential elections and looks into key figures in Trump’s administration, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner. The investigation emphasizes the nature of this presidency, in the way that there is no transparency or clarity indicating the extent of Russian involvement and influence in US politics.

Hillary Clinton Emails

In March 2015, it became public knowledge that while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, she had used a family email for official communication in which there were over a 100 emails that were classified at the time they were sent. The controversy was that Clinton had decided to use a private server, rather than the official State Department email accounts. The emails violated State Department protocols, as they were not able to be accessed by Congress or the Senate, and so Trump coined her “Crooked Hillary,” (though her reputation did not outshine her husband Bill Clinton).

Photo: Ted Knap



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