Richard Nixon wanted prosecutors to get something straight during his grand jury testimony on the Watergate controversy: wealthy D.C. socialite Perle Mesta wasn’t made ambassador to Luxembourg just “because she had big bosoms.” It was just because she “made a good contribution.”
Mesta once supported Lyndon B. Johson because “he’s got everything,” but supported Nixon in 1960, calling him “the best qualified candidate” and “a man not only of tested experience but also of human understanding, guided by deep principles.”
Her name came up during Nixon’s grand jury testimony, unsealed on Thursday thanks to a legal victory by Public Citizen, when he was explaining why it wasn’t “vitally important” for the ambassador to Luxembourg and other countries to have “extraordinary” qualifications for the job.
“I would say, looking at the smaller countries like Luxembourg, that Pearl Mesta wasn’t sent to Luxembourg because she had big bosoms. Pearl Mesta went to Luxembourg because she made a good contribution,” Nixon said.
“But may I say she was a very good ambassador in Luxembourg,” Nixon continued. “And when you talk about selling ambassadorships, I don’t want the record of this Grand Jury even to indicate that people of wealth, because they do make contributions, therefore should be barred from being ambassadors.”
The Luxembourg spot didn’t stop being used to reward big donors in the mid-twentieth century. President Barack Obama appointed a big donor to that position who later resigned after she “brought major elements of Embassy Luxembourg to a state of dysfunction” by demoralizing the staff and overspending on a mattress.