1974 April 29

“Expletive Deleted”: Nixon Releases Edited White House Watergate Tapes


Under pressure because of the expanding Watergate scandal (see the break-in that began it all on June 17, 1972), President Richard Nixon’s White House on this day released edited transcripts of the previously secret White House tape recordings. The released versions were heavily redacted to remove apparent vulgarities. The phrase “expletive deleted,” which was inserted in their place, became a national catchphrase, widely used by comedians and others.

Historian Joan Hoff examined the original recordings, however, and concluded that the editing only made conversations seem worse than they actually were. Nixon refused to turn over a more damaging group of tape recordings to the Watergate Special Prosecutor; when the Supreme Court ordered him to do so, in United States v. Nixon on July 24, 1974, the recordings confirmed Nixon’s actions to obstruct justice and quickly led to his resignation as president, on August 9, 1974.

The Watergate burglary on June 17, 1972 touched off a national scandal that gripped the nation for 15 months from the day of the original Watergate burglary to President Richard Nixon’s resignation. The burglary set in motions investigations that uncovered other abuses of power by President Nixon and several members of his administration. These included the famous “enemies” list of critics of the administration who were targeted for retaliation (August 16, 1971), and the White House “Plumbers” unit that burglarized the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist on September 9, 1971. Nixon was impeached by the House of Representatives in August 1974, and he resigned in disgrace on August 9, 1974. President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon on September 8, 1974, for any crimes he may have committed while president.

Read the Redacted Transcripts: The White House Transcripts (1974)

Listen to the White House tapes: http://www.nixonlibrary.gov/

Read historian Hoff’s analysis: Joan Hoff, Nixon Reconsidered (1994)

Read the Senate Watergate Committee report: https://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=144965

Read: Stanley Kutler, The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon (1990)

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