‘Gaslit’ is a biting satire on one of the most notorious incidents in American political history: the Watergate Scandal. However, it doesn’t focus on the scandal itself but on the women who were directly affected by it, including Martha Mitchell (Julia Roberts), the wife of Nixon’s one-time Attorney General, John N. Mitchell (Sean Penn).
The second episode of the series, titled ‘California,’ depicts the infamous break-in. While G. Gordon Liddy and his team orchestrate the attempted burglary, John and Martha try to garner support for Nixon’s re-election campaign in California. One of their security agents is a young man named Peter, who later holds Martha in her hotel room against her will. Here is everything you need to know about him. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Who Is Peter in Gaslit?
Portrayed by American actor Brian Geraghty, Peter makes his first appearance in the second episode of the series. He is brought in as a replacement for James McCord, whom Liddy recruited for his espionage operation into the DNC office. Martha feels uncomfortable from the start around him, but this is likely because she had grown close to McCord. Mitchell’s trip to California has turned out to be quite productive. They have even convinced Ronald Reagan’s team to support Nixon. However, while they celebrate their success, the break-in ends with all five burglars being arrested. John Dean, who is in the Philippines at the time, calls John to give him the bad news. He also voices the uncertainty that he and other members of the re-election committee feel about John’s wife.
Known as “Martha the Mouth” or “The Mouth of the South” for being originally from Arkansas, Martha Mitchell is massively popular for her flamboyant and outspoken personality. According to one poll, over 70% of Americans know who she is. Martha has no idea about the espionage mission. But Dean fears that she will contact her friends in the press once she finds out about McCord’s arrest.
When Martha wakes up the following morning, she discovers that neither her husband nor daughter is in the hotel room. The television is unplugged, and there is no newspaper in the room. Only Peter is there, who tells her that her husband has gone back to Washington. When she tries to call her husband, Peter threatens and physically accosts her.
Is Peter Based on a Real-Life Agent?
Peter seems to be modeled after Steve King, who served as a security agent for the Committee for the Re-Election of the President or CRP at the time of the Watergate Scandal. He accompanied the Mitchells on their trip to California. The real Martha Mitchell reportedly called journalist Helen Thomas of the United Press late one night in June 1972 after finding out about McCord’s involvement in the scandal. She reportedly told Thomas that she was leaving her husband until he stepped down from his position in the CRP. However, the call suddenly ended.
Martha later accused King of keeping her captive in the Californian hotel, wrenching the telephone out of her hand and later destroying it, and holding her down while a doctor injected her with a tranquilizing shot. Martha reportedly remained at the hotel for the first week of the Watergate Scandal and later arrived at the Westchester Country Club in Rye, New York. Journalist Marcia Kramer, who worked for the New York Daily News at the time, found her there. According to Kramer, Martha looked like she had been beaten and had black and blue marks on her arms.
Whenever King has been asked what happened at the hotel over the years, he has always given vague answers. Between 2017 and 2021, he was posted in the Czech Republic as the United States Ambassador. After Martha made her accusations, Nixon’s people reportedly sought to discredit her. In 1975, after his conviction for being part of the Watergate Burglary, McCord told the media that Martha Mitchell was indeed held against her will. “Martha’s story is true — basically the woman was kidnapped,” he stated during an interview.
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