The Private Man
Recovery for invasion of privacy should not depend upon proof of actual malice.... injury to personality and feelings is as tangible as injury to body or reputation.
— RICHARD NIXON, ARGUING FOR THE RIGHT OF PRIVACY
BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT, 1966 1
NIXON AS PRESIDENT installed an elaborate taping system, invading the privacy of everyone who came into his three offices and authorized secret investigations of the sexual and drinking habits of his political rivals. When he ordered a twenty‐ four-hour surveillance over Edward Kennedy, he said to Haldeman, "Catch him in the sack with one of his babes." 2 Nevertheless, Nixon seemed inordinately jealous of his own privacy, and throughout his career fought against any kind of exposure. As president he punished editors who invaded it by having them audited by the IRS, and cancelling reporters' White House privileges. 3
From 1962 to 1967, when he was not a candidate for public office, there was no major threat to the privacy of his family life. It was during these years, as a lawyer in New York, that he argued his only case before the Supreme Court, Time v. Hill, involving a Broadway play called The Desperate Hours. Here he defended the right of the James Hill family against what he declared was a privacy-damaging review of The Desperate Hours in Life. Something in this case touched Nixon, and he went to great trouble in it. When he lost, six to three, he taped a long analysis of his failure.
In 1952 the Hill family had been held prisoner by escaped convicts for nineteen hours. They had been treated courteously and released unharmed. The police, in apprehending the convicts, had killed two of them. The play fictionalized the original happening by having the convicts abuse the family by violence