With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

"No One Could Believe It": When Ford Pardoned Nixon Four Decades Ago

On Sunday, Sept. 8, 1974, Tom DeFrank was seated in the White House briefing room, waiting for an announcement from President Gerald R. Ford. Mr. DeFrank was a 29-year-old Newsweek correspondent who had been summoned to the White House with the press corps while the rest of Washington ate breakfast or went to church.

Mr. Ford was in the Oval Office facing a wall of television cameras. Mr. DeFrank and his colleagues were down the hall, listening to the president over a loud speaker as he gave his address. After 11 a.m., Mr. Ford announced he was pardoning Richard M. Nixon, the former Republican president and his old boss who resigned weeks earlier in disgrace, accused of obstruction of justice and abuse of power for his role in the Watergate scandal.

If Mr. Nixon was indicted and subject to a criminal trial, Mr. Ford wrote in his pardon, “the tranquillity to which this nation has been restored by the events of recent weeks could be irreparably lost.”

Reporters were stunned. “No one could believe it,” Mr. DeFrank said, recounting the event in an interview this past week. “It was a moment of high drama.”

Read entire article at NYT