Listening to Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover diss Katharine Graham.

Media criticism.
Sept. 26 2007 5:33 PM

Dick and J. Edgar Diss Kay Graham

Eavesdropping on a Nixon-Hoover telephone call.

Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee. Click image to expand.
Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee in 1971

President Richard Nixon and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover surely collapsed from gossip hangovers after concluding a seven-minute-long telephone call on July 1, 1971.

An audio clip and transcript of the conversation was posted to the Web this week by the Presidential Recordings Program at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs. According to the program's Ken Hughes, the National Archives made this conversation available to the public in October 1999, but Hughes believes this is the first time a transcript and sound clip of it has been published.

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Let's go to the tape! 

First Nixon and Hoover trashed the Supreme Court for having vacated the injunction to ban publication of the Pentagon Papers.

"You know, those clowns we got on there, I'll tell you, I hope I outlive the bastards," said Nixon. One of the "bastards" was Justice Potter Stewart, who voted against the injunction.

"What in the hell is the matter with Stewart?" Nixon demanded.

"Well, Stewart is a very wishy-washy individual," responded Hoover.

His Ugliness, J. Edgar Hoover
Click image to expand.
His Ugliness, J. Edgar Hoover

Hoover then claimed that muckraker Jack Anderson—"that skunk"—had copied the Pentagon Papers at the offices of the Washington Post. But the claws didn't really come out until the chitchat turned to Washington Post Co. monarch Katharine Graham. Hoover had seen Graham on television the night before and thought she looked awful.

Hoover: I would have thought she's about 85 years old. She's only about, I think, something like 57.

Nixon: Oh, no, I know that. Yeah.

Hoover: And I had an idea she was a great deal older when I looked at her last night. She's aged terribly.

Nixon: She's a terrible old bag.

Hoover: Oh, she's an old bitch in my estimation.

For the record, Graham was a mere 54 years old at the time, and judging from photographs, she was still a pretty hot number. The 75-year-old Hoover, on the other hand, resembled nothing more than sun-rotted, wormy calabash.