President Richard M. Nixon was a man with a long memory, especially when he felt he’d been slighted. His administration put together an “enemies list” of people who’d opposed Nixon or his policies, including journalists, labor leaders, antiwar activists and civil rights activists.
In 1973, Nixon was caught planning a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate building in Washington D.C. The scandal, simply dubbed” Watergate”, brought outrage and media reports criticizing the president’s actions. The president later lied about the attempted break-in on national television, denying having any knowledge of the plan. During his speech, he stated: “I am not a crook”!
“Nixon’s Enemies List” became the name of a list of Nixon’s major political opponents compiled by Charles Colson, Special Counsel to Nixon from 1969 to 1973. Known as Nixon’s “hatchet man”, Colson was one of the “Watergate Seven” at the height of the Watergate scandal, and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. In 1974, he served seven months in a federal prison, and to make it worse the prison was in Alabama. He was the first member of the Nixon administration to be incarcerated for Watergate-related charges.
The list was sent in a memorandum to handsome White House Counsel John Dean in fall 1971. The list was part of a campaign officially known as “Political Enemies Project”.
The list became public knowledge on June 27, 1973, when Dean mentioned it during hearings with the Senate Watergate Committee. Journalist Daniel Schorr, who happened to be on the list, managed to obtain a copy of it later that day.
A longer second list was made public by Dean on December 20, 1973, during a hearing before Congress.
The official purpose, as described by the White House Counsel’s Office, was to “screw” Nixon’s political enemies, with tax audits from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and by manipulating “grant availability, federal contracts, litigation, prosecution, etc.” Dean explained the purpose of the list:
This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly—how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.
The IRS commissioner, Donald C. Alexander, refused to launch audits of the people on the list. Included were: Carol Channing, Jane Fonda, Dick Gregory, John Lennon, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Gregory Peck, Tony Randall, and Barbra Streisand. Have you ever noticed that the coolest celebs are outspoken Democrats?
Channing, a lifelong Democrat, wasn’t terribly radical, so it’s difficult to know exactly why she ended up on Nixon’s list. One possible explanation was her closeness with both the Kennedy family and Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. At the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Channing sang a reworked version of Hello, Dolly to LBJ” “Hello, Lyndon“.
Whatever the reason for her appearance on the list, Channing ended up happy to be there. She stated:
At first I felt terrible, then I realized… that no matter what I do the rest of my life… I’ll never do anything as distinguished as getting on Nixon’s enemy list.