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Richard Nixon – as calls for his impeachment grew as his popularity dropped to the lowest point of any President since Harry Truman in 1953, the threat and very real possibility of impeachment grew daily. And so on August 15, 1973, Richard Nixon went before the cameras and microphones to deliver an address to the American People on the growing Watergate scandal.
Richard Nixon: “Now that most of the major witnesses in the Watergate phase of the Senate committee hearings on campaign practices have been heard, the time has come for me to speak out about the charges made and to provide a perspective on the issue for the American people.
For over four months, Watergate has dominated the news media. During the past three months, the three major networks have devoted an average of over 22 hours of television time each week to this subject. The Senate committee has heard over 2 million words of testimony.”
“On May 22, I stated in very specific terms—and I state again to every one of you listening tonight these facts—I had no prior knowledge of the Watergate break-in; I neither took part in nor knew about any of the subsequent coverup activities; I neither authorized nor encouraged subordinates to engage in illegal or improper campaign tactics. That was and that is the simple truth. In all of the millions of words of testimony, there is not the slightest suggestion that I had any knowledge of the planning for the Watergate break-in. As for the coverup, my statement has been challenged by only one of the 35 witnesses who appeared—a witness who offered no evidence beyond his own impressions and whose testimony has been contradicted by every other witness in a position to know the facts.
Tonight, let me explain to you what I did about Watergate after the break-in occurred, so that you can better understand the fact that I also had no knowledge of the so-called coverup.
From the time when the break-in occurred, I pressed repeatedly to know the facts, and particularly whether there was any involvement of anyone in the White House. I considered two things essential:
First, that the investigation should be thorough and aboveboard; and second, that if there were any higher involvement, we should get the facts out first. As I said at my August 29 press conference last year, “What really hurts in matters of this sort is not the fact that they occur, because over-zealous people in campaigns do things that are wrong. What really hurts is if you try to cover it up.” I believed that then, and certainly the experience of this last year has proved that to be true.
I know that the Justice Department and the FBI were conducting intensive investigations—as I had insisted that they should. The White House Counsel, John Dean, was assigned to monitor these investigations, and particularly to check into any possible White House involvement. Throughout the summer of 1972, I continued to press the question, and I continued to get the same answer: I was told again and again that there was no indication that any persons were involved other than the seven who were known to have planned and carried out the operation, and who were subsequently indicted and convicted.”
Here is that complete address, as it was given on August 15, 1973.