Tapes show Nixon as unabashedly anti-Semitic

Conversations link Jews with communist conspiracy, press

October 07, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Newly released, the latest batch of conversations secretly taped by President Nixon depicts him again as unself-consciously anti-Semitic, informing his aides at one point that the communist conspiracy against the United States was entirely composed of Jews except for Whitaker Chambers and Alger Hiss.

The tapes also show the depth of his anger against the New York Times for its publication in 1971 of the Pentagon Papers, the government's secret history of activities that led to America's involvement in the Vietnam War.

Nixon's anti-Semitism and his anger at the Times came together when he demanded that no one in the White House provide any information to the paper's Washington bureau, which was headed at the time by Max Frankel.

"Don't give them anything," he tells his staff. "And because of that damned Jew Frankel all the time -- he's bad, you know. Don't give him anything."

Yesterday, Frankel, who retired as executive editor of the Times and now writes a column for the Times Sunday Magazine, said of Nixon's comment: "It's a vulgarity that puts me in very good company. Almost a badge of honor."

But Frankel added that after Nixon left office and was trying to rehabilitate his image, he wrote letters complimenting Times editorials and invited Frankel and other editors to his home for lunch.

The gist of what is in the tapes has been depicted before as a result of court decisions that made the recordings available to the public through the National Archives.

The latest batch of tapes consists of 445 hours of conversations from February through July 1971, a period that includes publication of the Pentagon Papers by the Times and the Supreme Court's decision upholding the newspaper's right to publish them.

One person the White House suspected of supplying the Pentagon Papers was Daniel Ellsberg, the Defense Department analyst. Speaking of Ellsberg, Nixon says: "Incidentally, I hope to God, he's not Jewish, is he?"

Another, unidentified voice, answers, "I'm sure he is. Ellsberg?"

Nixon later turned the conversation to people targeted in investigations against communists.

"The only two non-Jews in the communist conspiracy," he said, "were Chambers and Hiss. Many felt that Hiss was. He could have been a half, but he was not by religion. The only two non-Jews. Every other one was a Jew. And it raised hell with us."

Alger Hiss, a high-ranking State Department official, was convicted of perjury for denying that he was a communist, and Nixon's early reputation was built on his determination to get Hiss convicted.

Pub Date: 10/07/99

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