In a newly unearthed audio clip, then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan disparaged “monkeys” from African countries in a phone call with then-President Richard Nixon, according to the former director of Nixon’s presidential library, who published his findings in The Atlantic.
Tim Naftali, who directed the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum from 2007 to 2011, writes that Reagan — who would later become the 40th President of the United States — called Nixon in October 1971, the day after the United Nations had voted to recognize the People’s Republic of China. In the call, he says, Reagan is heard apparently referencing the way the Tanzanian delegation started dancing in the General Assembly when the UN took the vote to seat the delegation from Beijing instead of Taiwan.
Reagan, Naftali writes, is heard saying to Nixon, “Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did.”
Nixon interjected: “Yeah.”
Reagan continued, “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries — damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!”
Reagan — a devoted defender of Taiwan who despised the UN — wanted the US to withdraw from full participation, Naftali said.
The National Archives originally released the tape of the phone call in 2000 without the racist portion, but as a researcher, Naftali said, he requested a new review of Nixon’s conversations with Reagan last year. The National Archives released the complete version of the recording online two weeks ago.
In another audio clip, Naftali writes, Nixon then called then-Secretary of State William Rogers and recounted his conversation with Reagan.
“As you can imagine,” Nixon told Rogers, “there’s strong feeling that we just shouldn’t, as (Reagan) said, he saw 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.”
The newly unearthed audio comes weeks after President Donald Trump used racist language to attack four progressive Democratic congresswomen of color, implying they weren’t American and suggesting they “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
The President faced swift backlash from both Democrats and Republicans, and the House voted to formally condemn Trump’s racist language.
CORRECTION: The headline has been updated to accurately identify Tim Naftali as the former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.