G. Gordon Liddy Overcame His Fear of Rats by Cooking and Eating One

Political operative G. Gordon Liddy died on Tuesday aged 90. Though no cause of death was announced, his family said it was not COVID-19 related and Liddy had been suffering from Parkinson's disease.

Liddy was a controversial figure, most famous for his involvement in the planning of the Watergate break-in during the 1972 presidential election. This burglary of Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel set in motion a chain of events leading to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Though convicted in the criminal case arising from the break-in and sentenced to 20 years in prison, later commuted by President Jimmy Carter, Liddy said he'd "do it again for my president."

One of the more unusual aspects of Liddy's character was his claim to have cooked a rat and eaten part of it in order to overcome his fear of the rodents.

He recounted the event to NPR's Fresh Air in 1980, telling host Terry Gross how he beat his childhood fear.

"First thing I did—this, again, when I was a child—I would go down underneath the piers on the waterfront and try to confront the rats. And this didn't work very well because first of all, rats swim very well," Liddy said.

"And they would just jump off and swim away. And I remained fearful of them—less and less, to be sure, but still, I had residual dread.

"And finally, when my sister's cat killed one freshly, I recalled the fact that certain American Indian tribes used to consume the heart of an enemy, that they consider to be courageous, to overcome the fear of that tribe."

"The African Zulus I just learned in another program on this - in this city used to consume the heart, the brains and the genitalia for the same reason. It's apparently a multiracial thing. And so I cooked and consumed part of the rat. And thereafter, I had no fear of rats," Liddy said.

Gross asked if that had worked, to which Liddy simply replied: "Oh, yeah."

In the same interview, Liddy told Gross that he had "used fire" for "strengthening my will."

"And then I simply used that as the same technique one would use when trying to strengthen physically an arm, to increase the weights that one would lift. I increased the amount and duration of the fire until I reached the point of diminishing returns, which is where serious injury would set in," Liddy said.

The Late G. Gordon Liddy
G. Gordon Liddy during a promotional book tour for his autobiography "Will" (Liddy served President Richard M Nixon and was sent to prison on conspiracy charges involving the Watergate Break in which eventually led to the impeachment of President Nixon) on June 12, 1982 in Dallas Texas. Liddy once cooked and ate a rat to overcome his fear of the animals. Paul Harris/Getty Images