Saturday, November 17, 2007

November 17, 1973:

"I Am Not a Crook"

Richard Nixon wasn't the most quotable of presidents, but he left his share of memorable phrases to the American people. Perhaps most memorably, in a turn of phrase 34 years ago that has backfired down the years, Nixon said, "I am not a crook." To which the instant response of many listeners was, "Oh, yeah?" Eliciting that response probably wasn't Nixon's intention.

The New York Times covered it this way: "... In a one-hour question-and-answer session with 400 participants in The Associated Press Managing Editors annual convention Mr. Nixon defended himself against all charges of wrongdoing and attempted to regain the political offensive...

"After months of torment over the Watergate and allied scandals, the President gave detailed answers to more than a dozen questions.

"But perhaps the most vivid comment came when Mr. Nixon told the editors he was not 'a crook'--unusual language from a President, even one under fire. 'I've made my mistakes,' the President said, 'but in all my years of public life I've never profited from public service. I've earned every cent. I'm not a crook.'

A fuzzy video of the statement, which includes a few sentences not in the NYT report, is available here.

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