Networks Seize on White House Scandal...From 40 Years Ago

While NBC, ABC, and CBS have censored coverage of the ongoing IRS scandal for weeks – even as new revelations have moved it higher up the rungs of the Obama administration – on Wednesday and Thursday, the networks all eagerly hyped 40-year-old tapes of President Richard Nixon discussing the Watergate scandal. [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Perhaps the most infuriating was NBC, which hasn't touched the IRS story in 56 days, sending correspondent Peter Alexander to the lawn of the Obama White House to report on the decades-old Nixon recordings for Thursday's Today: "39 years have now passed since President Nixon abruptly resigned. Still, his life fuels our fascination. And these tapes, more than 340 hours worth, give us an unparalleled window into an unprecedented time of presidential turmoil." If only there was some current "presidential turmoil" Alexander could cover.

NBC provided over 5 minutes coverage to the 1970's presidential scandal in the 24 hours following the Nixon Presidential Library releasing the tapes.

ABC has ignored the IRS scandal for 57 days. However, it provided the least coverage to the Nixon tapes, only a single story on World News. Anchor Diane Sawyer dramatically declared: "And now we turn to those secret audio tapes that once shattered a presidency and the trust of a nation. Tonight for the first time we hear the last words of President Richard Nixon on the secret tapes at the moment of the searing scandal of Watergate."

CBS, which has avoided the IRS scandal for 28 days, has devoted over 10 minutes of air time to the Nixon tapes since Wednesday. On Thursday's CBS This Morning, co-host Charlie Rose not only touted the just-released recordings, but also hyped supposedly new information on the scandal: "The last of Richard Nixon's White House tapes show a president under siege....And was it really a secretary who erased 18 ½ minutes of crucial information from those tapes? This morning, two investigators reveal who they believe actually deleted history."

And what's the latest from investigators looking into the IRS?

As Washington Post columnist George Will pointed out in a May 13 article, one of the never-used articles of impeachment drawn up against Nixon read: "He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to...cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner."


Here is a full transcript of Alexander's August 22 report on Today:

7:18AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: We are now hearing the final batch of secretly recorded phone calls and meetings from President Nixon's White House, as he coped with the Watergate crisis. NBC's Peter Alexander is at the White House with this story. Peter, good morning to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Nixon Unplugged; Newly Released Tapes Show President Under Pressure]

PETER ALEXANDER: Savannah, good morning to you. You know, 39 years have now passed since President Nixon abruptly resigned. Still, his life fuels our fascination. And these tapes, more than 340 hours worth, give us an unparalleled window into an unprecedented time of presidential turmoil.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [TV ANNOUNCER]: The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC.

ALEXANDER: It was the spring of '73.

MARLIN BRANDO [AS VITO CORELEONE]: I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse.

ALEXANDER: The Godfather was the best picture, Tony Orlando and Dawn topped the charts.

TONY ORLANDO [SINGING]: Tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree.

ALEXANDER: And the wheels were starting to come off Richard Nixon's presidency.

RICHARD NIXON: The man at the top must bear the responsibility.

ALEXANDER: After his first major address on the topic, announcing the resignations of his closest advisors, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, Nixon, who apparently had a few drinks, spoke with Haldeman by phone, uncensored.

NIXON: God d*** it, I'm never going to discuss this son-of-a-b******* Watergate thing again. Never. Never. Never, never.

ALEXANDER: That night, California Governor Ronald Regan called in his support.

RONALD REAGAN: We're still behind you out here and I wanted you to know that you're in our prayers.

NIXON: Each of us has a different religion, you know.  

REAGAN: Yeah.

NIXON: But God d*** it, Ron, we have to build peace in the world.

How'd you ever marry such a pretty girl? My God.

REAGAN: Well, just – I'm lucky.

NIXON: You're lucky? That's right. As I was lucky.

ALEXANDER: By July, with the Senate in the midst of its Watergate investigation, Nixon was fuming about his attorney general being called to testify.

NIXON: They bring him before the stinkin' committee on a stinkin' little crappy thing like this.

BOB WOODWARD [WASHINGTON POST]: It's a component of his arrogance that he thought, you know, even though I'm doing this, no one will ever know.

ALEXANDER: And those tapes end in July of '73, when they were publicly revealed, that secret recording system was publicly revealed. President Nixon held on for 13 more months, Matt and Savannah, before he, of course, resigned in disgrace.

GUTHRIE: Peter Alexander at the White House, thank you. That's so extraordinary to get to actually hear it in real time.

NATALIE MORALES: Remarkable, yeah.

MATT LAUER: Just think about these recordings in terms of what was made back then. Today of course it'll be – or 50 years from now, it'll be a Vine that they're listening to.

GUTHRIE: Yeah, exactly.

LAUER: But seriously, that was...

AL ROKER: For only 6 seconds.

LAUER: ...that was ground-breaking stuff back then.

GUTHRIE: Yeah, incredible to hear that.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC