Presidents | Richard Nixon

Tolerant Nixon Worried Gays Might Cause The End Of Civilization: LISTEN


In new transcripts of tapes revealed in Vanity Fair, President Nixon proved to be modern in his views on homosexuality, claiming that gay people are “born that way.” The recordings come after earlier tapes that revealed homophobic views held by Nixon.

The transcripts are an adaptation from a forthcoming book by Douglas Brinkley and Luke A. Nichter. The authors used 3,700 hours of Nixon’s White House tapes to convey the inner workings of the Oval Office.

Speaking with national-security adviser Henry Kissinger and Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman on April 28, 1971, Nixon claimed that he is “the most tolerant person” on the issue of homosexuality. He went on to say that gay people are “born that way...the tendency is there.”  

However, while acknowledging that many important historical figures were gay, Nixon also claimed that “boy Scout leaders, YMCA leaders, and others bring them in that direction, and teachers.” Comparing the U.S. to ancient Rome, he also worried that tolerant attitudes to homosexuality could lead to the fall of civilizations.

Listen to Nixon’s views on homosexuality, AFTER THE JUMP...


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  1. What could have led to the fall of the US much quicker was if Nixon had not resigned.

    Posted by: steve talbert | Jul 11, 2014 9:38:41 AM

  2. Nixon wasn't so much a Quaker as he was a Quacker. Oh, yeah, he indeed WAS a crook, too. Some things just don't change within the GOP.

    Posted by: HadenoughBS | Jul 11, 2014 9:43:46 AM

  3. His tolerance for gay men might have to do both with his Quaker roots and his longtime bromance with mobster banker Bebe Rebozo. Nixon spent huge amounts of time alone with Rebozo, which might have reflected his paranoia in general and his lack of close friends, but was suspiciously gay too for a long time. Neither was religious.

    Posted by: anon | Jul 11, 2014 10:03:49 AM

  4. I am under the impression that Rome "fell" after the "Christians" got energized.

    Posted by: PeterC | Jul 11, 2014 11:07:53 AM


    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jul 11, 2014 11:28:49 AM

  6. Not to defend Nixon in any way, but the reference to Rome to support the notion that tolerance of homosexuality would lead to the decline of civilization was pretty common at the time, even among otherwise well-educated people.

    Posted by: MichaelJ | Jul 11, 2014 11:45:35 AM

  7. I think the author of this piece misspoke: The book is an adaptation of the transcripts, not the other way around.

    Posted by: Topher | Jul 11, 2014 12:24:55 PM

  8. lead lined water pipes (drove them crazy) and over extended military were much larger issues to the fall of rome

    xtianity was also in ascendance during the fall

    Posted by: Moz's | Jul 11, 2014 12:40:44 PM

  9. Richard Nixon would considered pretty liberal by today's standards. He was in fact responsible for numerous social safety net programs we take for granted today. I would actually consider him the last great liberal president we've had. Of course you'll never get 'progressives' to admit this, especially old timers. LBJ and Nixon built our modern welfare state, along with things such as 'affirmative action'. Nixon also had pretty enlightened views on homosexuality.

    As for the fall of Rome, it really had more to do with Rome becoming soft, and Christianity actually softened Rome. It's a soft ideology/religion.Once Rome lost control of it's borders and experienced uncontrolled 'migration' from the vandals and goths, it was all over. Sound familiar?

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jul 11, 2014 12:44:07 PM

  10. For 1971 that was a moderate position.

    In fact on many issues Nixon lies to the left of many Democrat politicians.

    Reagan started the oligarchy that the US currently suffers from.

    Posted by: MaryM | Jul 11, 2014 12:57:59 PM

  11. Would anybody here like to know what I know about Henry Kissinger?

    Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC | Jul 11, 2014 1:10:18 PM

  12. Although he calls himself " tolerant," I think it would be more accurate to call his views about the influence of teachers and the fall of civilization homophobic - and not unusual for that time. This was what homophobia sounded like, before the explosive growth of fundamentalist christianity in America, and the wide cultural currency of its story-line that being gay is a choice , a sin, an addiction, or a turning away from god - which the great majority of even moderately educated people of 40 or 50 years ago would have regarded as hysterical religious lunacy. Instead, I think a lot of people held to a certain amount of deeply ingrained, but not always aggressively or actively persecutory, socio-cultural prejudice against gay people, similar to what Nixon expresses here.

    Posted by: Hank | Jul 11, 2014 3:00:50 PM

  13. Kind of a microscope of his general paranoia, being a realist who's afraid of reality.

    Posted by: Lexis | Jul 11, 2014 9:08:37 PM

  14. Nixon claims to be tolerant, but his attitude is that "gays will destroy civilization". That's scapegoating. The Romans also had slavery. Any empire based on slavery and a thuggish army (which you have to pay & feed) is not going to last, obviously. It's not homosexuality that destroyed the Roman empire--it collapsed due to being uncontrollable.

    Posted by: rayy | Jul 12, 2014 7:24:57 AM

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