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Profanity Heard on Nixon Tapes

March 9, 1999 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Richard Nixon’s salty language, pure and unabridged, boomed from a tape machine set up in a courtroom where a federal judge is deciding the monetary value of the late president’s secret White House recordings.

On one tape, Nixon calls an Immigration and Naturalization employee from California a ``kike.″ He refers to an illegal Mexican immigrant as a ``wetback.″ And in another tape recording, he utters blasphemy and profanity and says former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart ``was a little dumb.″

Government lawyers on Monday used the tapes _ ethnic slurs and all _ in an attempt to convince U.S. District Judge John Garrett Penn that Nixon would not have tried to sell the tapes after leaving office. Nixon’s estate argues they were worth millions of dollars and wants the government to compensate the estate for seizing them.

The tape recordings, played in court to a sparse audience of employees from the National Archives and Nixon buffs, were scratchy and hard to hear. But they brought back to life the Nixon presidency, which ended with his resignation in 1974.

In one tape, Nixon orders the INS to check out a ``wetback,″ an illegal alien believed to be working as a gardener for an executive of the Los Angeles Times.

``I want to start taking the Times on,″ Nixon says in the conversation on Oct. 7, 1971. Later, he tells Attorney General John Mitchell on the phone: ``I want the whole goddamned bunch gone after.″

John Taylor, director of the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation in Yorba Linda, Calif., accused the government trying to tarnish Nixon’s image.

The nearly 3,700 hours of tapes that were secretly made while Nixon was in office and confiscated when he resigned on Aug. 9, 1974, include historical information on domestic and foreign policy initiatives, Taylor said. Yet the government has chosen segments to ``tear down Nixon in the eyes of the judge and the American people,″ Taylor, who was a longtime Nixon aide, said in a telephone interview.

``This has to do with the Justice Department trying to score legal and political points in a courtroom setting,″ he said.

On the October 1971 tape, an angry Nixon calls an INS employee in California a ``kike,″ a derogatory term for a Jewish person. The worker had a role in the arrest of 36 illegal Mexican immigrants working at a food processing plant owned by former U.S. Treasurer Romana Banuelos, who was appointed by Nixon and was then awaiting Senate confirmation.

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Nixon also indicates he wants to make trouble for former INS Commissioner Raymond Farrell. He tells Mitchell: ``I want you to scare him to within an inch of his life.″

In other conversations, Nixon discusses the drinking habits of then-House Speaker Carl Albert, D-Okla. When referring to Stewart, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Eisenhower, Nixon says: He’s ``a little dumb.″ Stewart died in 1985.

The Nixon estate is seeking to collect $35 million in compensation and $175 million in compounded interest for tapes, photos, films and papers the government seized after Nixon left office.

The government contends the estate is entitled to nothing, but that if some compensation must be made, the fair market value of the materials would be no more than $2.2 million plus compounded interest. The trial is the culmination of an 18-year legal battle.

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