Surprise: Trump Wasn’t the First Wildly Racist President

Former Presidents Richard Nixon, left, and Ronald Reagan pose for a brief photo opportunity during a visit by Nixon to Reagan’s offices on Tuesday, July 17, 1990 in Los Angeles, CA.
Photo: Douglas C. Pizac (AP Photo)

Newly reviewed audio shows the full extent of President Ronald Reagan’s racism behind closed doors. According to the Atlantic, in 1971, then-California governor Reagan called President Richard Nixon to complain about his night watching the United Nations on television. The U.N. was voting on whether to admit the People’s Republic of China. Reagan was angry about delegates who did not side with the United States, which opposed the resolution.

Reagan told Nixon: “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!”

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Nixon laughed.

“Nixon used Reagan’s call as an excuse to adapt his language to make the same point to others,” wrote New York University history professor Tim Naftali.

Naftali wrote that these newly discovered tapes make Nixon’s disdain for Black people totally undeniable:

As these and other tapes make clear, the 37th president of the United States was a racist: He believed in treating people according to their race, and that race implied fundamental differences in individual human beings. Nixon’s racism matters to us because he allowed his views on race to shape U.S. policies—both foreign and domestic. His policies need to be viewed through that lens.

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Nixon called Secretary of State William Rogers to talk about Reagan’s ideas, embellishing them.

Nixon said: “As you can imagine, there’s strong feeling that we just shouldn’t, as [Reagan] said, he saw these, as he said, he saw these—these, uh, these cannibals on television last night, and he says, ‘Christ, they weren’t even wearing shoes, and here the United States is going to submit its fate to that,’ and so forth and so on.”

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Then, bizarrely, he spoke to Rogers again two hours later and repeated the story.

“Reagan called me last night,” Nixon said, “and I didn’t talk to him until this morning, but he is, of course, outraged. And I found out what outraged him, and I find this is typical of a lot of people: They saw it on television and, he said, ‘These cannibals jumping up and down and all that.’ And apparently it was a pretty grotesque picture.”

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And then: “He practically got sick at his stomach, and that’s why he called. And he said, ‘It was a terrible scene.’” And that sort of thing will have an emotional effect on people … as [Reagan] said, ‘This bunch of people who don’t even wear shoes yet, to be kicking the United States in the teeth’ … It was a terrible thing, they thought.”

Just a little story of two U.S. presidents sharing their super normal thoughts about people in Africa!

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