Scandalgate; adding the word “-gate” to a scandal to make it more awesome

Why are we adding “-gate” to every news story?

Journalists add “-gate” to the name of a scandal. It’s a quick nickname which allows the audience to know what’s being discussed, without having to go through all the details.

Why the word “gate”? It all links back to the “Watergate” Scandal in the 1970s.


What was the Watergate Scandal?

Watergate Scandal - President Richard Nixon

Nixon AKA “Tricky Dicky” denied his wrongdoing for years

In 1972, a break-in occurred at the offices of a Democratic party, at the Watergate complex. The burglars were trying to bug the offices of the party running against the President.

Then President of the USA, Richard Nixon (a Republican; against the Democrats) made a speech, saying he knew nothing about the burglary. He was re-elected, winning by a landslide.

Two journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, uncovered the fact that Nixon had lied to the people of America. He had known about the burglary and tried to cover it up. His team was also responsible for other illegal activities whilst attempting to get Nixon re-elected. After two years Nixon eventually resigned; the first President in history to do so.

This became known as the “Watergate” scandal. A New York Times columnist then started adding “-gate” to other famous scandals, and the phrase stuck.


What else has been called –gate?

Camillagate Scandal


One has royally f**cked up.

1992. A transcript of a sexually explicit phone call between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles was released. The phone call was made back in 1989, when Prince Charles was still married to Princess Diana. One has been very naughty indeed.


Sachsgate Scandal

Scandal Sachgate, Russell Brand miming being on the phone

Ring, ring…. it’s gone to answer phone.

2008. Comedian Russell Brand and presenter Jonathan Ross left obscene messages on the answer phone of 83-year-old actor Andrew Sachs. Not only that, but they did this whilst on Brand’s Radio 2 show. In the messages Brand claims to have slept with Sachs’ granddaughter. Did no-body tell him kiss-and-tell is not cool?

Both Brand and the head of Radio 2 resigned from the BBC. The BBC was also fined £150,000 by Watchdog organisation Ofcom. That’s one expensive voicemail.


Plebgate Scandal

2012. Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell rowed with police officers outside of Downing Street in London. The Sun ran a story claiming Mitchell had called them “plebs”. Mitchell denied saying this, but the police report said differently. Mitchell eventually resigned. Case closed.

Only it wasn’t. New CCTV footage made people question the police’s version of events. Several details didn’t add up and people wondered if Mitchell had been stitched up by the police. Several officers were eventually fired for misconduct and for giving details to the press. Andrew Mitchell then sued The Sun and the Police officer for libel. Big mistake; the judge concluded that he had used the word “pleb” and Mitchell had to payout £80,000. Ouch.

Case… confused. By this point the word “plebgate” had gone viral.


Remind me why this is relevant?

Scandal Emailgate - Hillary Clinton held a personal account whilst at the State Department. Her emails are now being released

Hillary realises email-gate might affect her chances of being President

We live in a world run by technology so it’s only right that the next big scandal should be “Emailgate”.

Hillary Clinton got into trouble earlier this year when it came out that she used a personal email address during her time as Secretary of State. She should have used an official State Department email address. Silly Hillary.

Why is this important? Well, you might not have noticed, but Hillary is running for US President next year and people didn’t like that fact that all her messages from her previous time in office were unavailable. She’s now been ordered to release emails from her personal account.

In the UK, it’s just been reported that emails from Downing Street are automatically deleted. The email system which deletes messages after three months was installed just before the Freedom of Information Act was made law. This act meant that public service workers would have to surrender their email if a Freedom of Information Request was made. Suspicious, no?

The system has been blamed for causing chaos at Number 10. It could also mean incriminating evidence is being deleted; could this be the next emailgate scandal?


What are people saying?

Scandal Gate - Reactions on twitter to Emailgate, Plebgate, Camillagate, Sachsgate

#scandalgate – has it gone too far?

What we learned; scandals often take a long time to play out, so having a catchy name to refer back to is well useful.

Is adding “-gate” to a scandal just a way for journalists to make headlines?

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