The Battle for Public Opinion: The President, the Press, and the Polls during Watergate

By Gladys Engel Lang; Kurt Lang | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
PUBLIC OPINION AM THE PARDON

On September 8, 1974, exactly one month after the resignation, Gerald Ford granted ex-President Richard M. Nixon a "full, free and absolute pardon . . . for all offenses against the United States which he had committed or may have committed or taken part in" during his tenure as President of the United States. Nixon accepted, expressing his hope that this "compassionate act will contribute to lifting the burden of Watergate from our country." Neither he nor Ford specifically mentioned what was being forgiven. Again, Nixon admitted to nothing more than "mistakes and misjudgments," which had caused many people to see his "motivations and actions in the Watergate affair [as] intentionally self-serving and illegal."

Under the agreement between the ex-President and the General Services Administration Nixon was to retain possession of his Presidential papers and of the controversial White House tapes which, for at least three years, were to be held in a government facility near San Clemente where he could control access to them. All tapes were to be destroyed by September 1, 1984--or earlier should Nixon die before that date.


REACTIONS TO THE PARDON

Restrained as the response to resignation had been, just so unrestrained were the expressions of indignation that swept the country after the pardon. On Capitol Hill some prestigious Republicans joined Democrats in deploring Ford's action: Senator Brooke labelled the blanket pardon without a full confession a "serious mistake"; Senator Packwood of Oregon declared that "no man is literally above the law." Some House members called for a revival of impeachment proceedings. Jerald ter Horst, the newly appointed White House press secretary, immediately resigned in protest and as a matter of conscience. 1 Phillip Lacovara, a Republican and top member of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, also resigned; the ground had been cut out from under it. Members of the Watergate grand jury were quoted

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