The Nixon Library Has Finally Stopped Calling Watergate a 'Coup'

A long-ridiculed exhibit telling the story of the scandal is being replaced

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Richard Nixon failed in covering up the infamous 1972 Watergate burglary that ended up forcing him out of office. But at least one version of the events has, until now, adhered to the former president's own view. Today, though, the Nixon Library and Museum will no longer describe the president's ouster as a "coup" by his rivals in its newly revamped Watergate exhibit.

The Nixon Foundation, which the New York Times described last year as a group of "Nixon loyalists," founded the library and museum in 1990 in Yorba Linda, California, and curated its contents until the National Archives took it over three years ago. Since the changeover, the Watergate exhibit has been a point of contention, with the Archive planning a "searing recollection" of the scandal to replace the longstanding — and long-ridiculed — whitewashed version.

Archivists say the $500,000 new exhibit will be "faithful to fact, balanced and devoid of political judgment," according to the Associated Press.

"What we tried to do is lay out the record and encourage visitors to come in ... and draw their own conclusions," said Susan Cooper, a spokeswoman for the National Archives.

Some material has never before been on public display, and it includes interviews with, among others, Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy and Nixon special counsel Charles Colson, who went to prison for seven months in 1975 for crimes related to the Watergate.

Not surprisingly, Nixon's former White House Aide, Bruce Herschensohn, opposes the rewrite, saying the library and museum should be a "shrine" to the former president and first lady.

"I can only come to the conclusion it will probably be a hit piece," he said. "This is the Nixon library. This is his place. He's buried there ... and so is Mrs. Nixon."

Hey, it's still a shrine. Just now, hopefully, a more accurate one.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.