Richard Nixon thought the infamous 18.5 minute gap in a tape recording at the precise time he was allegedly discussing the Watergate break-ins was a simple accident by his longtime secretary Rose Woods.
Those so-called “experts” who tried to recreate how the tapes might have been erased? A bunch of “amateurs” and “clowns.”
“All they said is that you had to have the record button on and you had to have — in this case Miss Woods was using a foot pedal — when I listened to the tape I have not done that, but of course when you are not typing you don’t need a foot pedal, you can just listen the other way,” Nixon said.
Nixon’s testimony before a grand jury in 1975, unsealed thanks to a legal victory by Public Citizen, doesn’t shed a ton of new light on what actually happened to the recording. But it does let Nixon explain what he thought happened.
“If you are interested in my view as to what happened, it is very simple. It is that it was an accident,” Nixon said. “My view as far as Miss Woods’ role is that I believe her totally, but I guess I would be expected to because she has been with me so long and she is deeply religious, but she doesn’t wear it on her sleeve; she has it here in her heart, and she would never lie to me, and under these circumstances when she said that she didn’t erase anything, that she didn’t hear anything, she doesn’t know what is on it, I believe her.”
Nixon recalled that Woods “had thought it was four minutes, or something like that” and that once he found out it was eighteen and a half minutes, he “practically blew my stack.”
“I said, why, what business has counsel gotten to this,” Nixon said. “This tape she was told was not subpoenaed; they changed their minds, and he said, well, I guess they have. I said, well, let’s take another look then. I said, we have done enough damage to the Presidency already by agreeing to turn over confidential information, and I am not going to turn over anything that is not absolutely required by the subpoena.”