Was President Richard M. Nixon the crook he’s made out to be? According to former White House correspondent and American U. Adjunct Professor Donald Fulsom, he was.
In his new book “Nixon’s Darkest Secrets,” Fulsom said Nixon sabotaged the 1968 Vietnam peace talks, was an abusive husband and may have had a gay love affair with a banker tied to the mob. Fulsom enlisted the help of his students to write the book, to be published Jan. 31.
Fulsom said Nixon was as a paranoid, troubled, depressed man who was “a menace to our democratic republic.”
“Nixon was our most complex and crookedest president, and I thought people should know about it so we don’t make that mistake again,” he said.
Fulsom’s research drew heavily from his own notes and those of some friends and former reporters who covered Nixon. He has reported for United Press International on the Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton administrations.
Fulsom said he also talked to Nixon administration officials, White House staff, Secret Service and household staff as he wrote the book.
His motivation to write the book came from the release of previously unheard tapes and records. He said he wanted to perform a public service by getting this information out.
“[I want] to let people know that Richard Nixon was even worse as a president than we thought,” he said.
Four AU students helped Fulsom write the book, including one who helped to write an entire chapter.
Avi McClelland, a senior in the School of Public Affairs, took Fulsom’s class, “Watergate: Constitutional Crisis,” last fall. She said she agreed with Fulsom’s unsympathetic view of the 37th president.
“He had no business holding the highest office in the nation,” McClelland said in an email. “He was responsible for thousands of deaths of Americans, Vietnamese and Cambodians, not only during his time in office but even prior, as he intentionally and directly sabotaged Johnson’s Paris peace talks by urging the South Vietnamese to refrain from making a deal.”
McClelland was the manager and coordinator of the class’ final project. The students developed a wiki page on Nixon’s grand jury testimony, based on extensive research of the newly released tapes. The project can be found at nixondetached.com.
McClelland called the project “one of the greatest things I’ve participated in over the course of my academic career.”
However, not everyone agreed with Fulsom’s take on Nixon.
Kirkus Reviews, a book review site, said some of his claims seemed sensationalistic.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Fulsom said. “The possibility that he was having a homosexual affair is sensationalistic, but I don’t make that claim and I don’t come to a conclusion on it. He [Nixon] was a racist, he was a misogynist and he hated everybody.”
Having researched Nixon first-hand, McClelland defends Fulsom and his book.
“It is vital to keep in mind that the professor’s claims are all just that. He suggests certain possibilities and presents the evidence behind them, but has never been dogmatic as to the voracity of the claims,” McClelland said in an email. “He allows the evidence to speak for itself, and the readers to interpret.”