Monday, January 22, 1973 - 8:03pm - 8:05pm
Richard Nixon, Ronald Ziegler
White House Telephone

White House Press Secretary Ron Ziegler called with a query about a draft of President Nixon's statement on the death of former President Lyndon B. Johnson.1 With the conclusion of a Vietnam peace deal imminent, Ziegler expressed concern that the wording of the current draft of the statement would be interpreted by the press as a de facto announcement of a Vietnam peace deal and would thus overshadow the formal announcement of a peace agreement.

President Nixon: Hello?

Operator: Mr. President, I have Mr. [Ronald] Ziegler calling you.

President Nixon: All right.

Operator: There you are.

Ronald Ziegler: Mr. President?

President Nixon: Hello. Yeah?

Ziegler: I'm sorry to bother you, sir. In reading this last paragraph, Mr. President, I had the reaction that by saying, "he was so profoundly dedicated, in which we will soon--we shall soon achieve," I had a feeling that that would be focused on the lead, that we've almost announced peace. [unclear comments by Nixon] I checked it with [General Alexander] Haig.

President Nixon: Right.

Ziegler: To get his view just before--

President Nixon: I would just strike out "soon achieve."

Ziegler: Well, there are two ways to do it.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ziegler: One would be to say, "I am confident we shall soon achieve," which more prediction than it is a flat statement of fact.

President Nixon: Well, just leave it out. [Unclear.]

Ziegler: Al's feeling is--and I tend to agree with him--is that--

President Nixon: Just leave it out. I don't think you need it.

Ziegler: This paragraph would be better to say, perhaps, at the time of the speech, because tomorrow night there's going to be, you know, a lot of--

President Nixon: Yeah.

Ziegler: --run-down on LBJ--

President Nixon: All right. Fine.

Ziegler: --and so forth. And then we can--then there'll probably be a little criticism on his role and so forth. But, then, at the time of the announcement--

President Nixon: Fine. Fine.

Ziegler: --particularly if there's a 24 hour slip, then we can hit them with a statement like this.2

President Nixon: OK. Fine. Good. Fine. Leave it out.

Ziegler: Fine, sir.

  • 1. "Statement on the Death of President Lyndon Baines Johnson," 23 January 1973, Public Papers of the President: Richard Nixon, 1973.
  • 2. By "24 hour slip," Zigeler is referring to the news cycle in which the primary news outlets adhered to a daily schedule. At the conclusion of his televised speech the following evening announcing the Vietnam peace agreement, President Nixon said: "Just yesterday, a great American, who once occupied this office, died. In his life, President Johnson endured the vilification of those who sought to portray him as a man of war. But there was nothing he cared about more deeply than achieving a lasting peace in the world. I remember the last time I talked with him. It was just the day after New Year's. He spoke then of his concern with bringing peace, with making it the right kind of peace, and I was grateful that he once again expressed his support for my efforts to gain such a peace. No one would have welcomed this peace more than he. And I know he would join me in asking-for those who died and for those who live--let us consecrate this moment by resolving together to make the peace we have achieved a peace that will last." "Address to the National Announcing Conclusion of an Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam," 23 January 1973, Public Papers of the President: Richard Nixon, 1973.

Original tape courtesy of the Nixon Library. This transcript is a working draft. Please let us know if you find important errors.