Nixon: Abortion necessary in case of interracial child

New tapes reveal the then-president's view of the Roe v. Wade decision

Published June 23, 2009 9:40PM (EDT)

Every so often, a new batch of tapes and documents from Richard Nixon's time as president is released. That just happened Tuesday, and the latest recordings to be made public offer a shocking revelation about the character of the only man to resign the presidency: Nixon could be a bit of a racist. And a sexist. Also, an anti-Semite.

No, seriously.

The New York Times' Charlie Savage reports on one recorded conversation the day that the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade was handed down. Nixon didn't make a public statement, but privately, he worried that the greater legality of abortion would lead to "permissiveness," saying that abortion "breaks the family."

However, Nixon said, "There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white .... Or a rape."

On another tape, in a conversation with the Rev. Billy Graham, Nixon discussed complaints by some U.S. Jews about certain efforts to promote evangelical Christianity. "What I really think is deep down in this country, there is a lot of anti-Semitism, and all this is going to do is stir it up,” Nixon said, according to Savage. Later in the conversation, he said, “It may be they have a death wish. You know that’s been the problem with our Jewish friends for centuries.

CNN has another of Nixon's conversations, this one with George H.W. Bush, who was at the time the chair of the Republican National Committee. Talking about a visit he'd made to the South Carolina legislature, Nixon said, "I noticed a couple of very attractive women, both of them Republicans, in the legislature. I want you to be sure to emphasize to our people, God, let's look for some … Understand, I don't do it because I'm for women, but I'm doing it because I think maybe a woman might win someplace where a man might not."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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