BILOXI, Miss. – Fred LaRue (search), a high-ranking Nixon administration official who served a prison term for his role in Watergate (search) and was among those rumored to be Deep Throat (search), has died. He was 75.
His body was discovered Tuesday by a maid who entered his hotel room in Biloxi, Coroner Gary Hargrove said. The coroner said he believes LaRue died Saturday of natural causes.
LaRue was known as the "bagman" who delivered payoffs to keep participants in the Watergate break-in quiet, and served 4½ months in federal prison for conspiracy to obstruct justice.
LaRue served as special assistant to John Mitchell, the former attorney general who later headed President Nixon's Committee to Re-elect the President (search ).
LaRue was present at a 1972 meeting with Mitchell and Nixon aide Jeb Stuart Magruder at Nixon's vacation home in Key Biscayne, Fla., where the plan to break in Democratic headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington allegedly was hatched. LaRue said he advised against the burglary.
LaRue discounted rumors that he was Deep Throat, saying the mysterious source for Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward (search) and Carl Bernstein (search ) on the Watergate story was probably a combination of several people.
Woodward says Deep Throat was an individual and not a composite, and promised to reveal his identity only after the source is dead.
Among the other people who have been cited as possible Deep Throats are Earl J. Silbert, an original Watergate prosecutor; Alexander Haig, who was Nixon's chief of staff and Ronald Reagan's secretary of state; L. Patrick Gray, the acting FBI director who lived four blocks from Woodward; and deputy White House counsel Fred Fielding. All have denied it.
After his political career ended in scandal, LaRue returned to his home state of Mississippi to work in his family's oil company and with its real estate holdings.
In an interview last summer with The Sun Herald newspaper, LaRue said Magruder lied when he claimed President Nixon knew about the break-in. Magruder claimed Nixon approved the plan in a telephone conversation with Mitchell.
LaRue believed no such conversation occurred, saying he screened all the telephone calls on the getaway to Key Biscayne.
"I'm exceedingly angry about it. I don't recall any phone call. I don't think there was one," he said.
If the president had approved the plan, LaRue believes that Mitchell would have told him.
"There's absolutely no way, because of my unique relationship with John and Martha Mitchell, that he would not have told me that when I was in Key Biscayne," LaRue said. "Absolutely no way. I had dinner with the Mitchells four or five times a week. It was not just a political relationship. It was a very personal relationship."