Newly released tapes show depth of Graham's, Nixon's relationship
Thousands of newly released documents and recordings detail the final years of Richard Nixon’s presidency.
Among the recordings is a 1972 phone call that reveals the depths of Nixon’s friendship with the Rev. Billy Graham.
Although the conversation only lasted 12 minutes, the two men discussed everything from Nixon’s re-election bid to the Vietnam War.
Nixon: "Billy, where they find you?"
Graham: "Oh, I'm at home Mr. President, down in North Carolina."
The call took place just three weeks before Nixon would face George McGovern in the election, and Graham told Nixon he would help in any way he could.
Graham: "Anything you can of you want me to do. I told Bob Haldeman I was in a position to know all that I could do, but you just tell me and I'll do it."
Nixon: "You don't need any guidance; your political instincts are very good."
Throughout the conversation, it’s clear Graham was both a spiritual and political advisor to the president.
They even discussed the potential ramifications of a then-little-known scandal brewing called Watergate.
Graham: "I don't think you need anybody to say it for you because I don't think this business is touching you, but you don't want to take any chances." Nixon: "Sure."
Many years after the Watergate scandal, Graham said he did felt somewhat like a lamb led to the slaughter, said reporter Jon Elliston.
He has been studying Graham’s and Nixon’s relationship.
“I knew they were close friends, but I was surprised at how very often they communicated by various means," Elliston said.
During a recent trip to the Nixon Library in California, Elliston found many letters between the two men. The letters expressed how the president felt about Graham. One even thanked him for a Christmas fruitcake.
In a 1979 letter, he told Graham not to give a second thought about the media distortions of their relationship.
"It's one thing to see the relationship between these two men from the documents, but it's a whole other thing to hear their voices to hear just how cordial and chummy they are with each other. And to hear how quickly they can move through complex political discussions," Elliston said.
Graham: "Well I think you're right and I hope you stick to it." Nixon: "We will." Graham: "And I think the people are backing you. And I think there's going to be a tremendous tide on Election Day."
It may have been a 12-minute conversation on an October night nearly 40 years ago, but it forever details the political and spiritual relationship the two men shared.
Nixon: "Give my best to Ruth."
Graham: "I surely will and God bless you."
Nixon: "And your father-in-law."
Graham: "I surely will. Goodbye, sir."
There are reportedly many other recordings between Nixon and Graham. Some have been released, but others have not.
According to Elliston, Graham never knew he was being recorded, and he also expressed some regrets after Nixon’s downfall, but he was never ashamed of their friendship.