Saturday Night Massacre – Archibald Cox Firing – 1973 – Past Daily Reference Room
Archibald Cox, Attorney General in the Nixon Administration during the Watergate era. Archibald Cox was the Special Prosecutor, investigating the Watergate scandal and had subpoenaed President Nixon to supply tapes of conversations Nixon had in the Oval Office. Nixon refused to comply, but instead offered a compromise, known as The Stennis Compromise after Senator John Stennis of Mississippi, who was to offer a review and summary of the tapes for Cox. Stennis however, was famously hard-of-hearing. Cox refused the compromise. Nixon then ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox. Richardson refused and was forced to hand in his resignation in protest.
Nixon then asked Solicitor General Robert Bork to fire Cox. Bork claimed to be unaware of the circumstances over the resignations and was sworn in as Acting Attorney General. Bork wrote the letter firing Cox. Initially the White House claimed to have fired Ruckelshaus, but changed the story the following day, saying that the letter given to Bork indicated Ruckelshaus had resigned.
Less than a week later, a poll was conducted which showed that clear majority of American people had supported impeachment for President Nixon, and that his favorable ratings were at an all time low.
It was also ironic that Nixon had promised Bork an appointment as Supreme Court Justice when the time came, as way of a reward for carrying out the firing. Nixon never got around to it. And when President Reagan nominated Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987, he was reject by the Senate.
And so goes the nature of Scandals in the White House.
Here is an episode of Washington Week In Review from CBS Radio, originally aired on October 20, 1973, the same day as the infamous Massacre.