“I’m not a crook,” the late President Richard Nixon delcared on Saturday, Nov. 17, 1973.
Now, Nixon’s most famed speech has just turned 50.
At the time, the California Republican was addressing the annual convention for Associated Press managing editors.
“Let me just say this. And I want to say this to the television audience. I made my mistakes, but In all of my years of public life I have never profited, never profited from public service. I’ve earned every cent,” Nixon told 400 journalists from 43 states.
“And I think, too, that I can say that in my years of public life that I welcome this kind of examination because people have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.”
Nixon also used the question to address the Watergate scandal. “In all of my years in public life I have never obstructed justice,” Nixon added, referring to the charge for which he would be impeached the following year.”
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Nixon made the famous remarks in response to a reporter from The Providence Evening Bulletin.
The reporter, Joseph Ungaro, asked about Nixon’s income taxes.
“The Journal‐Bulletin on Oct. 3 reported that you paid $792 in federal income tax in 1970 and $878 in 1971,” Ungaro asked. “Are these figures accurate and would you tell us your views on whether elected officials should disclose their personal finances?”
Nixon refered the reporter to a prior disclosure, and he compared his income taxes to those of previous President Lyndon Johnson.
“Well the answer to the second question is, I have disclosed my personal finances, and an audit of my personal finances will be made available at the end of this meeting” Nixon said. “I paid $79,000 in income tax in 1969. In the next two years I paid nominal amounts… I can only say that we did what we were told was the right thing to do and of course what; President Johnson had done before.”
Nixon made the remarks a month after the infamous Saturday Night Massacre, when his attorney general resigned instead of firing the special prosecutor.
At the conference, Nixon provided context for the Watergate scandal of 1972.
“I could stand here before this audience and make all kinds of excuses, and most of you probably would understand, because you’re busy also. Seventy‐two was a very busy year for me. It was a year when we had the visit to China. It was a year when we had the visit to Moscow,” Nixon said.
“Now during that period of time, frankly, I didn’t manage to campaign, I didn’t run the campaign… However, I’m not blaming the people down below. The man at the top’s got to take the heat for all of them.”
The Horn editorial team