Menu JTA Search

Tapes: Nixon targeted Jews in his anti-Democrat campaign

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 (JTA) — Reports that President Nixon wanted the Internal Revenue Service to audit wealthy Jewish contributors to the Democratic Party — imploring a top aide to “go after ‘em like a son of a bitch” — have many Jews wincing. According to recently released White House tapes, Nixon urged his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, to “please get me the names of the Jews. You know, the big Jewish contributors to the Democrats. Could we please investigate some of the c—ks——rs? That’s all,” the San Francisco Examiner reported. Robert Strauss, treasurer of the Democratic National Committee in 1971, called Nixon’s comments in taped conversations from September 1971 “sickening.” “As a Jewish, politically involved Democrat, this language coming out of the mouth of a president of the United States is more than I can really comprehend,” Strauss told the Examiner. Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the tapes confirm that Nixon was “an anti-Semite,” having “absorbed every ugly stereotype.” “This shows he was enveloped by it. It was part of his being, his worldview,” Foxman said, adding that he was “troubled at how long it took to find out the extent of this illness.” Foxman also expressed dismay that “there was no rebuke or challenge by any of his aides.” The ADL has honored every president since Dwight Eisenhower with its Democratic Legacy Award, with the exception of Nixon. Foxman, upon learning of Nixon’s taped remarks, said he was “delighted we never did.” The conversations between Nixon and his top advisers are contained in more than 200 hours of tapes recently made available to researchers. In a Sept. 8, 1971, meeting, the Examiner said, Nixon apparently urged John Ehrlichman, his domestic policy chief, to investigate Jewish contributors to 1968 Democratic presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey and to former Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie, then the front- runner for the 1972 Democratic nomination. “John, we have the power,” Nixon said. “Are we using it to investigate contributors to Hubert Humphrey, contributors to Muskie — the Jews, you know, that are stealing in every direction? “Are we going after their tax returns? You know what I mean? There’s a lot of gold in them thar hills. “I can only hope that we are, frankly, doing a little persecuting.” In another conversation several days later with Haldeman, Nixon said, “What about the rich Jews? The IRS is full of Jews, Bob.” Haldeman suggested finding an anti-Semitic IRS agent, “a zealot who dislikes those people,” to audit prominent Jews. “Go after ‘em like a son of a bitch!” Nixon replied emphatically. No Jewish contributors were mentioned by name at any point in the conversations, and the San Francisco Examiner story said it could not determine whether any Jewish contributors were audited as a result of Nixon’s directives. Singling out political enemies for IRS audits was one of the charges cited by the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 when it called for Nixon’s impeachment. The taped conversations are not the only examples of Nixon’s anti-Semitism to surface in recent years. In 1971, Nixon ordered an aide to compile a list of senior Jewish officials in the Bureau of Labor Statistics whom he suspected of running a “Jewish cabal,” conspiring to hurt him by reporting inflated monthly unemployment figures. Haldeman, in diaries that were published posthumously, also reported several instances in which Nixon’s hostility toward Jews became evident. He wrote, for example, that Nixon sought to punish Jews for their lack of support by postponing delivery of U.S. jets to Israel after Jewish demonstrators disrupted a 1970 visit by French President Georges Pompidou.

NEXT STORY