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Nixon library an open book on Watergate

Fri., April 1, 2011

‘Whitewashed’ approach is over, director says

YORBA LINDA, Calif. – For years, Richard Nixon’s presidential library was accused of committing another Watergate cover-up. But now, archivists say, the stonewalling is over.

The library opened an expanded new exhibit Thursday that scholars say provides a more balanced and accurate account of the scandal that brought down a president.

“The public deserves nonpartisan, objective presidential libraries,” said library director Tim Naftali, who alluded to the original display as “inaccurate and whitewashed.”

Among other things, the old exhibit portrayed Nixon’s epic downfall as a “coup” by his enemies and suggested the press behaved unethically in pursuing him.

The $500,000 makeover was undertaken by the National Archives after it took control of the library in 2007 from the private organization of Nixon loyalists that had overseen the site since its opening in 1990.

The new display features sections called “Abuse of Power,” “The Cover-Up” and “Dirty Tricks,” complemented by taped interviews and text. In one interview, Nixon aide Alexander Haig, who died last year, says the president once asked him if he would be willing to burn White House tapes. “I said no,” Haig recalls.

Some material has never before been shown publicly, and it includes interviews with such figures as Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy and Nixon aide Charles Colson, who went to prison for crimes that came to light as the scandal unfolded.


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