NIXON BY NIXON: IN HIS OWN WORDS Debuts 8/4 on HBO
On Aug. 9, 1974, Richard Milhous Nixon became the first American president to resign from office. From 1971 to 1973, he had secretly recorded his private conversations, purportedly "for the purpose of historical record," but in the wake of the Watergate Scandal the revelation of the tapes led to his downfall.
Presented in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of his resignation and featuring excerpts from the tapes, as well as original press reports and Nixon's reflections a decade after the tapes were revealed, the fascinating documentary NIXON BY NIXON: IN HIS OWN WORDS debuts MONDAY, AUG. 4 (9:00-10:15 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO. Peter Kunhardt (HBO's Emmy®-winning "Teddy: In His Own Words") directs.
Other HBO playdates: Aug. 4 (5:00 a.m.), 7 (7:45 a.m., 3:15 p.m.), 9 (11:30 a.m.), 12 (5:45 p.m.), 17 (3:45 p.m.) and 22 (5:15 a.m.)
HBO2 playdates: Aug. 6 (8:00 p.m.), 11 (11:00 p.m.), 16 (7:10 a.m.) and 26 (11:30 a.m.)
Fearing that the blunt and candid remarks on the tapes would sully the presidency forever, Nixon sought to prevent their public release for the rest of his Life After leaving office. However, after his death in 1994, the government began releasing the 3,700 hours of recordings. The final tapes were made public on Aug. 20, 2013.
In 1982, John Ehrlichman, Nixon's former chief domestic advisor, voiced concern about the Nixon tapes, noting, "The problem is that historians are going to grab an hour of tape...and if you listen to a snippet of tape, you're going to form an impression of this man that's going to be wrong. Sometime, hopefully, there will be a committee of historians who will listen to all the tapes and go into all the archives and then come out and say Richard Nixon was the strangest collection, the strangest paradoxical combination of any man I ever heard of. And they'll be right."
Only Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, Deputy Assistant Alexander Butterfield and Special Assistant Stephen Bull knew of the recordings. Those who did not know included John Ehrlichman, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, Deputy National Security Advisor Andrew Haig, Attorney General John Mitchell and Secretary of State William Rogers, among others. "It was voice activated - everything was taped - which was probably stupid," Nixon conceded in 1983.
The declassified tapes revealed the President's opinions on a vast number of topics, including the Vietnam War, the Pentagon Papers leak, his Supreme Court appointments, and other matters of state. Nixon derided anti-war protesters in private conversations with Henry Kissinger, saying, "It really burns me up. We have no pride do we anymore, Henry?" He had equally harsh words for young Vietnam vet John Kerry, calling him "quite a phony." Years later, Nixon insisted that despite the anti-war sentiment in Congress and the media, "That was not The Voice of America. The Voice of America was the silent majority."
Nixon's angry reaction to the New York Times' publication of thousands of secret Pentagon documents detailing America's involvement in Vietnam revealed his growing hatred of the press. "This is treasonable action on the part of the bastards that put it out," he exclaimed to Henry Kissinger. Daniel Ellsberg of the Rand Corporation, who released the papers to the Times, became a target of his anti-Semitic outbursts. "The Jews are, are born spies," he said, and asked Chief of Staff Haldeman to "look at any sensitive areas around where Jews are involved."