Tapes Reveal Nixon's Prejudices Again

ByABC News via logo

March 22, 2002 -- Why would an American president allow his anti-Semitic and anti-gay tirades to be tape-recorded? He probably never thought they would ever go public.

The latest tapes released from the Nixon White House reveal a president who believed Jewish people and homosexuals were destroying the country.

In one taped spot, recorded on May 26, 1971, Nixon went off on a rant about Jewish people and psychiatry, a theme that he had sounded off on before.

"You know, it's a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob?" he said to top aide H.R. Haldeman. "What is the matter with them? I suppose it's because most of them are psychiatrists."

As vice president in the 1950s, Nixon was mortified when his treatment by a Jewish psychiatrist was made public.

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said that what Nixon said on the tapes reflects the man as he spoke, and are not just unguarded slips of the tongue.

"One of the things a historian always looks for is if there's an embarrassing sentence that a president might say in private — is this just sort of a lapse or is this a constant theme?" Beschloss said. "This was very much the way he talked."

‘You Know What Happened to the Greeks’

After Jews, gay people seemed to be next up on Nixon's hit parade.

"I won't shake hands with anybody from San Francisco," he said on one tape.

Watching the hit TV show All in the Family really wound Nixon up because for some reason, he believed one of the characters, Archie Bunker's son-in-law, was bisexual.

"Archie is sitting here with his hippie son-in-law, married to the screwball daughter — in-law apparently goes both ways," Nixon said.

Nixon decided that "Meathead" (Mike Stivic, the liberal son-in-law, played by Rob Reiner) likes men. So even though main character Archie Bunker (played by Carroll O'Connor) talked like Nixon, the show got a big thumbs-down from the president.

"The point that I make is that, goddamn it, I do not think that you glorify on public television homosexuality," Nixon said in a taped conversation with John Ehrlichman, the president's top domestic affairs adviser. "You don't glorify it, John, anymore than you glorify, uh, whores. I don't want to see this country go that way. You know what happened to the Greeks. Homosexuality destroyed them. Sure, Aristotle was a homo, we all know that, so was Socrates."

But to Nixon, the Greeks were not the country's immediate danger. Instead, he was worried about the Soviets.

"Dope? Do you think the Russians allow dope? Hell no. Not if they can catch it. They send them up," Nixon said. "You see, homosexuality, dope, uh, immorality in general: These are the enemies of strong societies.That's why the communists and the left-wingers are pushing it. They're trying to destroy us."

History on Tape

Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Nixon taped their conversations. But the tapes stopped after Nixon.

I think Nixon believed he would be able to take the tapes with him when he left office and have them edited, and release only what he wanted to release.

As these details from the president's taped conversations continue to surfarce, they will continue to be a part of the portrait of Richard Nixon, and will probably overwhelm a lot of his public acts.