President Nixon on tape: I’m tolerant of gays, but they destroyed Greece and Rome

PinkNews logo on pink background with rainbow corners.

Audio clips of former President Richard Nixon have been released, in which he explains that he is “tolerant” of gays – and says they are “born that way” – but warns that homosexuality has a damaging and destructive effect on society.

The newly-restored clips have been shared by Vanity Fair as publicity for a forthcoming book on Nixon’s first term, which is being written by Vanity Fair contributing editor Douglas Brinkley and historian Luke A. Nichter.

President Nixon initially seems quite progressive for the time: “Let me say something before we get off the gay thing. I don’t want my views misunderstood. I am the most tolerant person on that of anybody in this shop. They have a problem. They’re born that way. You know that. That’s all. I think they are.”

However, he goes on to blame gay adults for corrupting the youth. He says: “My point is, though, when I say they’re born that way, the tendency is there. My point is that Boy Scout leaders, YMCA leaders, and others bring them in that direction, and teachers.”

President Nixon made the comments in a conversation in April 1971 with his adviser on national security, Henry Kissinger, and his Chief of Staff, Bob Halderman, which was recorded at the time.

They discuss the apparent prevalence of homosexuality in Ancient Greece and Rome, leading President Nixon to say: “Once a society moves in that direction, the vitality goes out of that society.”

He adds: “By God, I am not going to have a situation where we pass along a law indicating, ‘Well, now, kids, just go out and be gay’. They can do it. Just leave them alone. That’s a lifestyle I don’t want to touch.”

This isn’t the first time such comments have been attributed to the late president. Last year, CNN released a clip in which President Nixon complains that 70s sitcom ‘All in the Family’ was “glorifying homosexuality”.

He starts, “I do not mind the homosexuality. I understand it,” before adding: “I do not think that you glorify, on public television homosexuality!”

He continues, as with the newly-released clip, by evoking the Ancient Greeks and Romans: “You ever see what happened, you know what happened to the Greeks? Homosexuality destroyed them. Aristotle was a homo, we all know that. So was Socrates… Do you know what happened to the Romans? The last six Roman emperors were fags.”

He concludes by saying: “You see, homosexuality, dope, immorality in general, these are the enemies of strong societies. That’s why the communists and the left-wingers are pushing the stuff: they’re trying to destroy us.”

Recordings and memos have previously revealed that President Nixon was keen to smear his opponents by associating them with the nascent gay rights movement.

Despite this, in 2011, a biography of President Nixon suggested that the president’s relationship with Charles Rebozo, one of his closest confidents, may have been sexual or romantic.