Richard Nixon, Bob Haldeman, Ronald Ziegler
White House Telephone
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President Nixon: Hello.
Ronald L. Ziegler∇:
President Nixon: Hi, Ron [Ziegler]. I was noting in the news summary that [ABC News anchorman] Howard Smith put out a report with regard to the casualties last week, you know, indicating that the administration was putting them out two days early because they were so low.
President Nixon: What's the background on that, do you know? Were you asked to confirm it?
Ziegler: No, sir, I wasn't asked about it at all. I think probably someone leaked it. We did not issue it formally.
President Nixon: Well, then it'll still be issued formally.
Ziegler: Yes, sir.
President Nixon: It wasn't carried by the other networks, huh?
Ziegler: No. I could call Howard and talk to him.
President Nixon: No, no, no. I . . .
Ziegler: But the background is we did not release it formally.
President Nixon: Yeah, yeah. Well, don't probe around too much. He put out 20, didn't he?
Ziegler: He--”19, was his figure.
President Nixon: He put out--”
Ziegler: I believe--”as I recall--”
President Nixon: The figure is 19, but the news summary said--”What?
White House Chief of Staff H.R. "Bob" Haldeman∇ can be heard in the background speaking to President Nixon and saying "under 20."
Ziegler: Said under 20.
President Nixon: Right. Yeah, well. Right.
Ziegler: But it will be formally announced . . . the casualty list will be formally announced--”
President Nixon: Well, I wanted to get a . . .
President Nixon: . . . I wanted to get a damned adequate ride when it is announced, you know? It'll be . . . well, don't--”if it is asked about, just say . . .
Ziegler: I'll just say we'll announce that on Thursday.
President Nixon: Well, that we do not have the final figure.
President Nixon: The final figure is not known until Thursday.
Ziegler: All right. Fine.
President Nixon: It'll be put out then.
President Nixon: Will you handle it that way?
Ziegler: Yes, sir.
As I've told everybody around, I want to--”I told [Defense Secretary Melvin R.] Laird∇
and others I wanted to be sure that this is properly played, because it is a very significant number.
Ziegler: Right. Well, it's the lowest since 1965.
President Nixon: Yes. And it's the first below 20.
President Nixon: That's the important thing.
President Nixon: Getting down to the . . . And it bears out the fact that after Laos they came down as we said they would and so forth and so on.
President Nixon: Of course they'd been coming down anyway, but this is a way that dramatizes it far more. OK.
Ziegler: I took [former Defense Secretary Clark M.] Clifford on a little bit today.
President Nixon: Oh, you did. Yeah.
Ziegler: [with Nixon acknowledging] In response to the--”some further questions on the POWs [Prisoners of War]. I indicated that those who are making statements without concrete evidence are raising false hopes, perhaps for domestic political objectives.
President Nixon: Right. Yeah.
Ziegler: So . . .
President Nixon: That's good.
Ziegler: That's what's moving today.
President Nixon: Well done. . . well done. OK.
Ziegler: OK, sir.