Nixon's Enemies

Nixon's Enemies

By WNYC Studios

Notes from America

Friday, 23 June

This week we’re looking at a President Richard M. Nixon, a man obsessed with winning. Whether it was an election or becoming a great leader, he would go to great lengths to ensure his success. But Nixon felt he was surrounded by enemies, so to make sure he triumphed, he had his staff create an “Enemies List:” a document with hundreds of people he thought could do him harm. It was part of the White House "Political Enemies Project," and included people ranging from some of Hollywood’s biggest stars to members of the media to business and labor leaders.

“It just so unpresidential for presidents to have enemies," said John Dean, Nixon’s White House Counsel who disclosed the existence of the list when he testified before the Senate Watergate committee. “I mean, theoretically, the President is the President of the United States, not the President of the Republican or Democratic Party, or the President of the people who voted for him. We don't like to think of our leaders as being that narrow-minded that they think everybody is their enemy who isn't their friend.”

Beyond it’s existence, the list was also remarkable because Nixon and his aides considered using it to try and find ways to use the power of the federal government to go after their enemies. How? One way was through the IRS.

Charlie Herman looks at Nixon’s infamous “Enemies List,” an unprecedented step taken by an embattled President who worried about being betrayed by everyone around him.

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Charlie Herman

Karen Frillmann

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