Henry Kissinger
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Photo by Bloomberg
Text size

Former U.S. President Richard Nixon's administration was bigoted and anti-Semitic despite its active support of Israel, Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman said Wednesday.

"Nixon was a pragmatist, a realist. He saw the interests of America being challenged by communism, and Israel as a state was an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean which was democratic," Foxman told Newsmax TV in response to a New York Times report earlier this week revealing Watergate-era tapes filled with questionable remarks by Nixon and Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

"We shared values, we shared history, etcetera. You can be both, unfortunately, you can be both," said Foxman. You can be a bigot,and you can dislike Jews - be an anti-Semite but act in a realpolitik way to support Israel."

"Don't always look for consistency when it comes to bigotry. Bigotry is irrational," Foxman added.

The 1973 conversation, recorded on a newly released batch of White House tapes from the final months before Nixon's presidency became consumed by the Watergate affair, took place shortly after the U.S. president had met with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.

Kissinger can be heard on the tape telling the president that if "they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern".

Nixon can also be heard making many disparaging comments about Jews on the recording, from telling his secretary "I don't want any Jew at that dinner who didn't support us in that campaign" - referring to the state dinner held for the Israeli prime minister - to stating that "The Jews are just a very aggressive and abrasive and obnoxious personality."

Foxman said he took more issue with Kissinger's remarks than those of Nixon: "I think what Kissinger said is horrendous, offensive, painful, but also I'm not willing to judge him," Foxman said. "The atmosphere in the Nixon White House was one of bigotry, prejudice, anti-Semitism, the intimidation of the anti-Semitism, the stories, the bigotry.

"Here is the irony, here's President Nixon, who came to the defense of
Israel, who intervened time and time again to protect Israel," added Foxman. "He understood that Israel is part of America's national security interests and yet he was bigoted against Jews, he was a bigot, he was an anti-Semite. And so when Kissinger, in that type of intimidating atmosphere, I'm not ready to judge. I'm sure he wishes he hadn't said it."