In comments at the Kent State May 4 Visitors Center in Taylor Hall, legendary reporter Bob Woodward said Saturday that there are parallels between the political climate at the time of the shooting and today.

At a news conference before his evening speech at the university about the May 4, 1970, tragedy, in which four students were killed by Ohio National Guardsmen, Woodward said the issues have changed, but the divisions remain.

"There's no question about it: There are some parallels," Woodward said. "The divisions of the 1970s were pivoted around the Vietnam War. Now the divisions are much more political and have to do with 'Do you support Trump or do you not support Trump?' "

Woodward, who along with fellow Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein uncovered the Watergate scandal, said that President Richard Nixon was incensed by opposition to his war policies.

"Nixon hated the anti-war movement and the idea that they would oppose him," Woodward said.

He also cited similarities between Nixon and Trump.

"I found from [reporting] on nine presidents that there's something about being elected president that puts you in that club, but also isolates you," he said.

Nixon enjoyed being alone, but Trump enjoys the spotlight. Of the two, however, "Trump is probably the most isolated."

Woodward spoke at the visitors center while about a dozen people outside paid their respects in a drizzling rain to the four slain students. It was his first visit to the campus, according to Eric Mansfield, executive director of university media relations.

Woodward said the May 4 shooting reverberated throughout the nation and even disturbed Nixon, who moved the next month against his political opponents.

"In June of 1970, Nixon took his first steps on the road to Watergate," Woodward said. "It was his first war internally against the people who protested the war."

Woodward's work on Watergate led to the first of his two Pulitzer Prizes. He continues to write on the current political scene and said he was surprised that Attorney General William Barr accepted the position in the Trump administration.

"He really entered the Trump world of untruth," Woodward said.

The May 4 shootings remain "horrific" 49 years after the event, Woodward said.

"It was a moment that shook the conscience of everyone, including Richard Nixon," he said. "Let's hope it never happens again and that it remains a singular incident."

 

Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859 or aashworth@thebeaconjournal.com.