New report highlights comments Richard Nixon made in favour of a debunked racist theory
- The Atlantic on Tuesday published a report about taped conversations between Nixon and his close associates in 1971 that highlight racist language and ideology which permeated the White House decades before current President Donald Trump was condemned for making racist comments online.
- In the recordings, Nixon recalled conversations he had with then-governor of California Ronald Reagan, who referred to UN delegates from African nations as "monkeys".
- The new audio dredges up past comments Nixon made agreeing with a racist theory about race and IQ.
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Tim Naftali, a clinical associate professor of history at New York University, penned an article in The Atlantic on Tuesday that referred to taped conversations between Nixon and his close associates in 1971 - including then-governor of California Ronald Reagan - which were recently released from the National Archives.
The conversations highlight racist language and ideology present in the White House decades before current President Donald Trump was condemned for his racist tweets.
New audio of Nixon speaking to then California Gov. Ronald Reagan, along with the report from Naftali, who directed the Nixon Presidential Library from 2007 to 2011, brings up comments Nixon made about race and IQ.
According to Naftali's report, Nixon believed in a "hierarchy of races" with white people at the top and people of African and Latin American descent towards the bottom.
In previously released recordings, Nixon revealed his opinions on Africans and African Americans to Harvard professor Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who had briefly served in his administration, and discussed theories by Richard Herrnstein and Arthur Jensen, which linked IQ to race. (These theories remain controversial today and Herrnstein's co-authored book 'The Bell Curve" been argued about and called "junk science" and "racist" by others in the scientific community.)
"I have reluctantly concluded, based at least on the evidence presently before me … that what Herrnstein says, and what was said earlier by Jensen, is probably … very close to the truth," Nixon told Moynihan.
"Within groups, there are geniuses," Nixon said. "There are geniuses within black groups. There are more within Asian groups … This is knowledge that is better not to know."
Nixon is not the only one to make racist remarks on the tapes. In a newly published phone conversation between Reagan and Nixon in October 1971, Reagan used disparaging remarks to refer to African nations at the UN who sided against the US in a vote to recognize the People's Republic of China.
"Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did," Reagan said in the tapes.
Nixon replied, "Yeah."
"To see those, those monkeys from those African countries - damn them, they're still uncomfortable wearing shoes!" Reagan said as Nixon laughed on the line.
That conversation was mentioned several times in future discussions between Nixon as his associates, often used to justify Nixon's own beliefs, the report said.
Conversations about racism in the White House have been reignited in recent weeks as President Donald Trump faces backlash for tweets he sent out encouraging progressive freshman congresswomen to 'go back' to 'broken and crime infested' countries. Trump was roundly condemned by Democrats, as well as a few Republicans, for the statements made earlier this month, though he said criticism "doesn't concern" him because "many people agree with me."
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