Inside the New Nixon Watergate Tapes

The last of Tricky Dick’s secret tapes are out, and they’re not very flattering.

Louis Maurel/Corbis

There should be no more shock when it comes to Richard Nixon, but, well, here we are. This latest batch of tapes—there are nearly 400 hours of phone calls and Oval Office conversations—displays some of President Nixon’s personal prejudices and reveals support he received from other Republican heavyweights during the throes of Watergate.

American First, Jew Second

In a rant to then-National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger on April 19, 1973, Nixon evinced a rather unsophisticated attitude toward religious tolerance. Worried that Jews might for some reason disrupt a U.S.-Soviet summit, Nixon threatened to blame them on national TV if the meeting failed. “I won’t mind one goddamn bit to have a little anti-Semitism if it’s on that issue,” Nixon said to Kissinger (who is Jewish).

Jews Destroying Foreign Policy?

Evidently, Nixon was really concerned about Jewish conspiracies. During an April 18, 1973 discussion with Vice President Spiro Agnew, Nixon criticized Jews for holding “America’s whole foreign policy and disarmament hostage to Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union.” But, according to Nixon, “the American people are not going to let them destroy our foreign policy—never.”

Equal-Opportunity Racism

Nixon’s prejudices extended further, as evidenced by a provocative conversation he had with his counselor Anne Armstrong on June 14, 1973. He asked Anne, “Do you know maybe one black country that’s well run?” Later in the conversation, Nixon disparaged Italians, Eastern Europeans, and more.

George H.W. Bush Has Nixon’s Back

On April 30, 1973, the day he forced the resignations of H.R. “Bob” Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, two of his closest aides who were implicated in Watergate, Nixon received a vote of confidence from George H.W. Bush, who was at the time chairman of the Republican National Committee. “I’m really proud of you,” said Bush.

Reagan: ‘You Can Count on Us’

That same day, April 30, 1973, Nixon also received a call from California Gov. Ronald Reagan. “We’re still behind you out here,” Reagan said. “I wanted you to know that you’re in our prayers.” Then the two shared small talk about how Nancy Reagan was “such a pretty girl” and Sacramento is a “miserable city.”