Nixon Resigns

Published: 1974
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI
WAP74080806 - 08 AUGUST 1974 - WASHINGTON, D.C., USA: President Nixon resigns from the Office of the President, August 8, 1974 following his role in the Watergate scandal. CBS via UPI

Announcer: The Audio Network of United Press International presents 1974 in Review, a documentary in sound of those news events which helped shape the course of history during the unique days of 1974.

The political fortunes of Richard Nixon contained as many setbacks as successes; but four years after his election to the highest office in the land, his popularity had reached its zenith and culminated with election to a second term in 1972. He won by the largest margin ever; however, the overwhelming support he had from the American people soon disintegrated, and with the Watergate scandal growing like the cancer John Dean had predicted, Nixon finally made the move he had promised so many times not to make.

President Richard M. Nixon: "I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow."

Announcer: From the start of 1974, Nixon was determined not to quit.

President Richard M. Nixon: "I have no intention whatever of ever walking away from the job that the people elected me to do for the people of the United States."

Announcer: He made that resolve in his State of the Union message in January. Although he had refused to comply with subpoenas from the Senate Watergate Committee for more than 500 tape recordings and documents, Nixon insisted he had been overly cooperative.

President Richard M. Nixon: "I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other investigations of this matter to an end. One year of Watergate is enough."

Announcer: But like the inevitable shadows at dusk, Watergate grew and Nixon's grasp on the Office of the Presidency weakened. Early in the year, popular and political support for Nixon was at both extremes of the spectrum. There were those who claimed he had done nothing wrong, that the guilt of Watergate could be spread to all those who worked for the President, but that he directly was not involved.

Unknown Speaker: "As far as what the President personally knew and did with regard to Watergate and the cover-up is concerned, these materials, together with those already made available, will tell it all."

Announcer: The transcript showed that open, frank and at times blunt discussion took place in the Oval Office. The phrase "expletive deleted" soon became popular because of its liberal use in the transcripts. The exposed discussion dismayed some. Republican leader Hugh Scott said those involved, including the President, showed "deplorable, disgusting, shabby, immoral performances."

By this time, the question of tapes subpoenaed by Special Watergate Prosecutor Leon Jaworski had been sent to the Supreme Court. The case title seemed ominous and incongruent: the United States versus Richard Nixon. On July 24th, a historic decision was announced: the Supreme Court Justices ruled eight to none that the President must turn over the tapes. That same day, the nationally broadcast impeachment hearings began. On the Committee was Representative William Hungate of Missouri, who was one of the most outspoken critics of the President.

Representative William Hungate: "He shows a lack of concern for morality, a lack of concern for high principles, a lack of commitment to high ideals of public office that makes the transcripts a sickening exposure. Richard Nixon is humorous to the point of being inhumane. He is devious; he is vacillating; he is profane; he is willing to be led; he displays dismay and gaps in knowledge. He is suspicious of his staff, his loyalties minimal. His greatest concern is to create a record that will save himself and his Administration."

Announcer: On that same Committee, Charles Sandman of New Jersey supported the President. All he wanted, he said, were the facts.

Representative Charles Sandman: "You can find almost anything that will disturb you, there's lots of things wrong! There were lots of crimes committed by lots of people! But were they placed at the door of the President? I don't think so."

Announcer: On July 27th, the Committee voted on the first article of impeachment.

Clerk: "Mr. McClory?"

Mr. McClory: "No."

Clerk: "Mr. Smith?"

Mr. Smith: "No."

Clerk: "Mr. Sandman?"

Mr. Sandman: "No."

Announcer: The first article charged President Nixon had personally engaged in a course of conduct designed to lead to obstruction of justice in the Watergate scandal, so here it was reduced to a vote that would less than three minutes to record, at the end of six months of investigation and a collection of over thirty volumes of evidence. Though the result was obvious beforehand, the drama of the vote captured the crowd who sat in hushed silence in the hot, crowded Committee room.

Clerk: "Mr. Butler?"

Mr. Butler: "Aye."

Clerk: "Mr. Rodino?"

Mr. Rodino: "Aye."

Clerk: "Mr. Chairman?"

Chairman: "Clerk will report."

Clerk: "27 members have voted aye; 11 members have voted no."

Chairman: "And the amendment is agreed to."

Announcer: Three articles of impeachment were finally agreed to. Support for Nixon eroded in the next few days; but the bottom fell out on August the 5th, when Nixon released three transcripts which show that on June 23rd, just six days after the Watergate breakin, he gave instructions to have the FBI halt investigation of the Watergate burglary.

It was more than many of his political supporters could take. Those on the Judiciary Committee who voted against the impeachment articles unanimously declared that they would change their votes to support the first article. Nixon held out for three more days, and then on August the 8th he spoke to America.

President Richard M. Nixon: "America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad. To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home. Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow."

Announcer: So ended, perhaps forever, the political career of Richard Milhous Nixon. The scrappy fighter had lost the biggest battle of his political life; the man who said he'd never quit has done just that.

In his farewell speech to his staff, Nixon uttered his final public words as President of the United States.

President Richard M. Nixon: "Greatness comes not when things go always good for you, but the greatness comes and you're really tested when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes, because only if you've been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain. And so I say to you on this occasion we leave, we leave proud of the people who have stood by us and worked for us and served this country. We want you to be proud of what you've done. We want you to continue to serve in Government if that is your wish, always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself."