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Tape of Nixon saying gays are born that way

Richard Nixon
Richard NixonNational Archives

I'm not sure what the correct conservative response to this shocking revelation is supposed to be, but I'm sure that in time some liberal will explain, with just a trace of contempt, what this "smoking gun" augurs. In case you haven't seen it on Twitter, much is being made of Vanity Fair's coverage of the "new" Nixon audio tapes and the bombshell they contain:

In an adaptation from their forthcoming book, Vanity Fair contributing editor Douglas Brinkley and historian Luke A. Nichter draw on 3,700 hours of President Nixon’s White House tapes to convey the inner workings of Nixon’s action-packed first term. Over the last several years, the tapes—many of which were muffled and, at times, indecipherable—have been cleaned up, pored over, and painstakingly transcribed. The result—excerpted below—includes conversations with Nixon’s national-security adviser Henry Kissinger, Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman, and chief domestic aide John Ehrlichman is a verbatim narrative of a pivotal period in Nixon’s presidency that portrays him as a geopolitical strategist, a crisis manager, and a duplicitous paranoid.

The first excerpt up is the one generating all the heat. The audio is here. The transcript follows:

April 28, 1971.During a discussion with Haldeman and Kissinger about an annual youth conference, the subject turned to homosexuality and society.

Nixon: Let me say something before we get off the gay thing. I don’t want my views misunderstood. I am the most tolerant person on that of anybody in this shop. They have a problem. They’re born that way. You know that. That’s all. I think they are. Anyway, my point is, though, when I say they’re born that way, the tendency is there. [But] my point is that Boy Scout leaders, YMCA leaders, and others bring them in that direction, and teachers. And if you look over the history of societies, you will find, of course, that some of the highly intelligent people . . . Oscar Wilde, Aristotle, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, were all homosexuals. Nero, of course, was, in a public way, in with a boy in Rome. [Emphasis added]

Haldeman: There’s a whole bunch of Roman emperors. . . .

Nixon: But the point is, look at that, once a society moves in that direction, the vitality goes out of that society. Now, isn’t that right, Henry?

Kissinger: Well—

Nixon: Do you see any other change, anywhere where it doesn’t fit?

Kissinger: That’s certainly been the case in antiquity. The Romans were notorious—

Haldeman: The Greeks.

Kissinger: —homosexuals. . . .

Nixon: The Greeks. And they had plenty of it. . . . By God, I am not going to have a situation where we pass along a law indicating, “Well, now, kids, just go out and be gay.” They can do it. Just leave them alone. That’s a lifestyle I don't want to touch. . . .

Kissinger: It’s one thing for people to, you know, like some people we know, who would do it discreetly, but to make that a national policy . . .

The subject soon turned to swearing in public.

Nixon: I mean, you’ve got to stop at a certain point. Why is it that the girls don’t swear? Because a man, when he swears, people can’t tolerate a girl who is a—

Haldeman: Girls do swear.

Nixon: Huh?

Haldeman: They do now.

Nixon: Oh, they do now? But, nevertheless, it removes something from them. They don’t even realize it. A man drunk, and a man who swears, people will tolerate and say that’s a sign of masculinity or some other damn thing. We all do it. We all swear. But you show me a girl that swears and I’ll show you an awful unattractive person. . . . I mean, all femininity is gone. And none of the smart girls do swear, incidentally.

There it is, in print and audio: Richard Nixon, a conservative president, stating that gays are "born that way." Since, moreover, none of the other three people in the room says otherwise, it is a consensus view, which — in the eyes of liberals — lends scientific credence to the claim.

Now if only Douglas Brinkley can find an audiotape of Nixon saying we need to do something about global warming....

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