What Are Some Government Cover-Ups?


Quick Answer

Some famous government cover-ups include the Watergate scandal, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and the Soviet deceptions involving the Chernobyl nuclear incident in 1986. When the government engages in covering up its own misdeeds, the damage to the public trust can lead to scandal, loss of office and even revolution.

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Full Answer

The Watergate scandal began in 1972 when burglars at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel were caught attempting to wiretap phones and steal documents related to that year's presidential election campaign. President Nixon and several members of his most trusted staff attempted to cover up the crime by preventing an FBI investigation, firing staff members and raising hush money for the burglars. When the cover-up was exposed, Nixon was forced to resign amid impeachment procedures.

The Tuskegee syphilis experiment, started in 1932, recruited black men who were infected with syphilis to treat them for "bad blood," a cover for watching the progression of the disease rather than providing treatment that could have cured them. Though the study was terminated in 1972 amid public outcry, it permanently damaged African-Americans' trust in the government.

In 1986, the USSR's Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, killing two plant workers immediately and another 29 people over three months. Rather than telling the truth, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev under-reported the damage, a cover-up that resulted in the exposure of many innocent people to dangerous levels of radiation. Ultimately, Chernobyl contributed to the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

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