Nixon Aide DeVan L. Shumway, 77

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 26, 2008

DeVan L. Shumway, 77, the spokesman for the Committee to Re-Elect the President who staunchly defended the Nixon administration throughout the Watergate scandal, died April 23 of lung disease at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He lived in Fairfax County.

Mr. Shumway was proficient at what became known as "non-denial denials," in which administration officials sounded as if they were denying charges without actually doing so. He was the main public contact for President Richard M. Nixon's reelection committee while reporters tracked down who ordered the 1972 burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington. The coverup led to Nixon's resignation in August 1974.

The Washington Post story "is not only fiction, but a collection of absurdities," Mr. Shumway said in October 1972, when Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward wrote that the FBI had established that the burglary was connected to political spying and sabotage on behalf of Nixon's reelection campaign. When asked to say what was not true, he refused, on the grounds that "the entire matter is in the hands of the authorities."

When Watergate burglar James W. McCord, who worked for the reelection committee, told the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973 that former attorney general John N. Mitchell had approved plans to bug the Democrats' offices, Mr. Shumway said, "I cannot believe these allegations to be anywhere near the truth." He called the hearings "a star chamber proceeding."

Seven months after the Watergate break-in, the New York Times reported that four of the five burglary suspects were still being paid, that $900,000 in committee funds was unaccounted for and that Mitchell knew more than he was saying. Mr. Shumway told Times reporter Seymour Hersh that the charges were "outrageously false and preposterous. . . . If the Times chooses to publish these unsupported statements, it will be a serious act of journalistic recklessness and irresponsibility."

It was later established that the charges were true.

Mr. Shumway, a native of Blanding, Utah, attended the University of Utah and served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. He worked for what became United Press International, rising to the position of West Coast bureau chief in 1959, a job he held for 10 years.

He led the unsuccessful 1970 reelection campaign for Sen. George Murphy (R-Calif.) before going to work for Nixon as assistant director of communications for the White House. In 1972, he switched to the reelection committee, where he was director of public relations.

He left the committee in late 1973 and became editor of newspapers in Springfield, Ill., and San Diego. He returned to Washington in 1975 to direct the public information office for the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

In 1978, he became editor and publisher of Oil Daily, a trade publication, and in 1989 he became owner and publisher of the Utility Spotlight newsletter. He retired in 2000.

He was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Oakton ward and enjoyed golf and travel.

His marriages to Ingrid Shumway and Barbara Shumway ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of five years, Judy Shumway of Fairfax County; six children from his first marriage, Mary Irby of Oakton, DeVan Shumway of Reston, David Shumway of Oakton, Craig Shumway of Orlando, Lisa Cunningham of Vienna and Chris Shumway of Greenwich, Conn.; a son from the second marriage, Graham Shumway of Centreville; 27 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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