Ben Bradlee was the executive editor of The Washington Post from 1968 to 1991.
PHOTO: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post/Getty Images/File
Ben Bradlee was the executive editor of The Washington Post from 1968 to 1991.

Story highlights

Ben Bradlee, 93, has been suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia for several years

He oversaw Washington Post's coverage of Watergate scandal that led to Nixon's downfall

Bradlee's wife, columnist Sally Quinn, says she kept his condition private

He and John F. Kennedy were once neighbors, and Bradlee later wrote books about him

(CNN) —  

Ben Bradlee, the former top editor of The Washington Post who oversaw the paper’s coverage of the Watergate scandal, is in hospice care as his health has declined over the past six weeks, his wife said in a C-SPAN interview.

Bradlee, 93, began end-of-life care at his home last week after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia for several years. Bradlee was the executive editor of The Washington Post from 1968 to 1991 during which time the paper covered the downfall of President Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal.

“He was diagnosed a while ago, but it became obvious that he had a serious problem about two years ago,” his wife, Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn, said in the C-SPAN interview Sunday.

Quinn said Bradlee still recognizes her and “loves having me there.”

In November, President Barack Obama awarded Bradlee the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded to civilians.

“With Ben in charge, the Post published the Pentagon Papers, revealing the true history of America’s involvement in Vietnam; exposed Watergate; unleashed a new era of investigative journalism, holding America’s leaders accountable and reminding us that our freedom as a nation rests on our freedom of the press,” Obama said at the ceremony.

Quinn said she kept Bradlee’s condition private for a while.

“Once you say the A-word, everybody’s attitude changes toward you,” she said.

Bradlee went into the newspaper business after World War II, starting a paper in New Hampshire. In 1948, he moved to Washington to report for the Post.

After a brief stint as a press attaché for the U.S. Embassy in Paris’ propaganda unit, Bradlee worked for Newsweek in Europe. He later became the magazine’s bureau chief in Washington and helped negotiate the sale of Newsweek to The Washington Post.

As a reporter in the 1950s, he became friends with future President John F. Kennedy when he moved into a house on the same block as Bradlee when he was first elected to Congress. Bradlee later wrote two books about his one-time neighbor.

He rejoined the Post in 1965 as managing editor and became executive editor in 1968.

In 1971, the Post and The New York Times battled the Nixon administration to the Supreme Court over the Pentagon Papers, leaked documents that showed that the war in Vietnam wasn’t going as political leaders and the military brass portrayed it.

The justices sided 6-3 with the two papers’ rights to publish material from the papers.

For the past 23 years, Bradlee has been The Washington Post’s vice president at-large.