Telephone Tapes

Richard NixonRichard Milhous Nixon spent many of the “after hours” of his presidency in the Lincoln Sitting Room of the White House residence with his feet up before a roaring fireplace (even in summer, when he had the staff crank up the air conditioning), a yellow legal pad in hand and a phone at his side. The pad allowed him to organize his thoughts into strategies; the phone, to implement them. The White House switchboard operators permitted the President to reach anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Nixon started recording his phone calls in April 1971, a month and a half after he had a voice activated taping system installed by the Secret Service and wired to hidden microphones in the Oval Office. At his request, the Secret Service tapped the phone lines to the Oval Office, the Lincoln Sitting Room, and the Executive Office of the President in the office building next to the White House and hooked them up to a system that automatically recorded all calls to and from whichever room the president was in. The tape recorders, a pair of bulky, reel-to-reel Sony TC800Bs, switched into recording mode at the start of each call, creating a whip-like sound audible at the start most of the recorded conversations as the reels started turning from a complete stop.

Unlike Nixon’s meeting tapes, the telephone tapes generally have a high sound quality.


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