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NEWS & IDEAS

Nixon’s Secret White House Tapes Reveal His Idea of Femininity

Nixon’s Secret White House Tapes Reveal His Idea of Femininity

On April 28, 1971, former President Richard Nixon was chilling in the oval office with his National-Security Adviser Henry Kissinger and Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman. They were initially discussing an annual youth conference but the conversation veered off towards Nixon’s various misconceptions about gay people and women. Vanity Fair contributing editor Douglas Brinkley and historian Luke A. Nichter discovered the ignorant tirades after parsing through 3,700 hours of President Nixon's White House tapes. 

Rachel Maddow put her head in her hands when she announced this soundbite because it’s ridiculous: Nixon is convinced that women don’t ever swear. He asks, “Why is it that the girls don’t swear?”

Halderman responds: 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.

Nixon amends his initial conclusion to another, equally false one that he expresses with total sincerity: No smart girls swear. Let’s just say if we were ever to meet Mr. Nixon, we’d have a few choice words to send his way.

Read more at Vanity Fair.