Monday, January 22, 1973 - 8:47pm - 8:50pm
Richard Nixon, Charles Colson
White House Telephone

The most recent issue of Time magazine, which had hit news stands the previous day, had included a story on E. Howard Hunt, Jr., and Hunt's reported claims that the Watergate break-in was authorized by Charles Colson and John Mitchell. In response to the story, Colson's office had issued a statement that "Time magazine never questioned Mr. Colson about the authenticity of this story prior to publishing it, and he considers it sloppy journalism. He unequivocally denies what Hunt is quoted as saying, and points out that he (Colson) has already denied it under oath."1

Operators connect the call.

President Nixon: Yeah?

Charles Colson: Yes, sir, Mr. President.

President Nixon: How's your lawsuit coming?

Colson: [chuckles] Well, I've been giving it a lot of thought. I've had--sure as hell think I've got one.

President Nixon: Yeah. I think so, too.

Colson: They haven't played much of the story, actually. Tonight's [Washington Evening] Star sort of buried it in there. I think with the [Lyndon] Johnson death that it--

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: --probably did not make the networks, although I didn't watch tonight.

President Nixon: [chuckles] Things really happen around here, don't they?

Colson: God, I should say they do. The irony of it, of course, is just--

President Nixon: That he should die before we've got something done there. Yeah.

Colson: That's right. One day, maybe, or two--

President Nixon: --or three or four, perhaps, but whatever the case may be. Well, anyway, that's that.

Colson: That's the strange turn that--turns that life takes.

President Nixon: That's right. Right.

Colson: I'm sure it would have given him a lot of satisfaction to--

President Nixon: Right. Right.

Colson: --to see us finish that.

President Nixon: Right.

Colson: And slam it down the craws of the critics.

President Nixon: Right. Well, in any event, it'll make him look better in the end than he would have looked otherwise.

Colson: Oh, yeah, that's right. [Unclear.]

President Nixon: I often used to tell him when I talked to him over these years and particularly in the last, oh, couple years, that after all that how this thing came out was going to have an enormous effect on his place in history. And he's aware of that. [chuckles]

Colson: Oh, I'm sure he's aware of that.

President Nixon: He wouldn't step up to it, unfortunately, you know. He--maybe it was just as well. It probably wouldn't have helped us if he had.

Colson: No. That's right. And--

President Nixon: And we had everything that he could give us, anyway.

Colson: Right.

President Nixon: That [unclear] came, though. That's something. It's the first time in 40 years there hasn't been a former President.

Colson: My God, I hadn't thought of that. I had completely forgot that.-

President Nixon: See, [Herbert] Hoover lived through all of 40 years.2

Colson: That's exactly right.

President Nixon: Right. OK. But I'd-- I really think you ought to consider it. What are the arguments against it?

Colson: Well, the only argument against it is one that I happened to be at a dinner party, a reception, tonight with Dick Kleindienst, and--

President Nixon: Oh, yeah. What's he saying?

Colson: Well, Dick simply said, you know, "Don't [unclear] damn story up."

President Nixon: Well, that may be true, too.

Colson: On the other hand, the case is a hell of a case. I've had--

President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.

Colson: --a few of my prospective law friends looking at it.

President Nixon: What's the statute of limitations?

Colson: Oh, I've got three years. But the real value of it, of course, is publicity.

President Nixon: Right.

Colson: [with Nixon acknowledging] And it would make a hell of a case because they've admitted, and their reporter is calling me--the reporter who wrote the story is calling me frantically tonight.

President Nixon: Did you take his call?

Colson: Well, I haven't yet. I've decided to make him sweat.

President Nixon: Yeah.

Colson: [Kenneth] Clawson called [Henry] Grunwald tonight and--3

President Nixon: I hope he reamed him out.

Colson: Well, what he said is, "We don't want it in as a letter to the editor and an apology. We want it run in the news section." And Grunwald said, "I'll consider it." Well, now, with their reporter calling me tonight I think I've really gotten to them.

President Nixon: Right.

Colson: I'm sure of it. I'm sure they--

President Nixon: Well--but they--you can't have them run it in the news section. That doesn't do it if they just say, "Well this--we said this but they say that," you see.

Colson: Oh, no, no. They would do with a statement of apology.

President Nixon: A retraction. OK.

Colson: They're calling it a regret--

President Nixon: Right.

Colson: --which is maybe a little different but--

President Nixon: OK.

Colson: I'd like to stick it to them.

President Nixon: All right. Yeah.

Colson: OK. Thank you, Mr. President.

  • 1. "Time Reports Hunt Offered Money to 4," New York Times, 22 January 1973; "Trials: The Spy in the Cold," Time, 29 January 1973.
  • 2. Former President Herbert Hoover had died on 20 October 1964. Former President Harry S. Truman had died on 26 December 1972. Former President Dwight Eisenhower died on 28 March 1969.
  • 3. Kenneth W. Clawson was White House Deputy Director of Communications. Henry A. Grunwald was editor-in-chief of Time magazine.

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