A forensic psychiatrist says the late Martha Mitchell might have averted Watergate, but was silenced and labelled a mental case and treated against her will by doctors who forcibly tranquillized her.
Dr Jonas Robitscher, who teaches law and psychiatry at Emory University, Atlanta, cited the case in a lecture series at George Washington University on the uses and abuses of psychiatry.
Speaking of interaction between government and mental health, Dr. Robitscher noted, "The recent resignation of a President after a period of stress during which many people, psychiatrists and laymen, were concerned about his mental stability and were uncertain how to deal with the incompetency of a chief executive."
The problem was not new with President Nixon, he said, citing the final illnesses of James Garfield and Woodrow Wilson and " the case of Franklin Roosevelt whose physical and mental states deteriorated dramatically ... in his final year."
He also noted the break-in of the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist in a search for psychiatric information with which to discredit Mr. Ellsberg, and turned to "the interesting and tragic case of Martha Mitchell in my mind a very great and a much abused lady."
Calling Mrs Mitchell "the only person close to the source of power who saw Watergate whole and early and who tried to blow the whistle," Dr. Robitscher said: "First, if Martha Mitchell had not been forcibly restrained and kept from contact with newspaper people through the use of force, threats and tranquilizing drugs," and "second, if she had not been ridiculed and labelled as a mental case, Mr. Nixon would not have won his second term."