1969 November 19

Nixon White House Tries to Explain Phone Calls to TV Stations


Herbert Klein, Director of Communications for President Nixon, on this day tried to explain why the White House had called television stations around to the country to ask what their treatment would be when Nixon gave televised addresses or news conferences.

Critics of Nixon believed the phone calls were an attempt to intimidate television stations into giving coverage more favorable to the president. Television stations are a federally regulated business, and face licensing renewals from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). They can also be punished or have their licenses revoked for violation of federal regulations.

The context of this controversy involved the escalating criticisms of President Nixon’s policy on the Vietnam War. Moratoriums against the war had brought tens of thousands of anti-war protesters to Washington on October 15, 1969 and November 15 1969. Two days before the second Moratorium, on November 13, 1969, Vice President Spiro Agnew had delivered a major speech criticizing the news news media for its treatment of Nixon and his Vietnam War policy.

Learn more about the anti-Vietnam War movement: Thomas Powers, The War at Home: Vietnam and the American People, 1964–1968 (1973)

Watch a documentary on how the Vietnam War affected America: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGeFPzFNkQg

Learn more about President Nixon’s abuses of power: Stanley Kutler, The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon (1990)

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