Nixon Lovers Tried to Get Yorba Linda Library Chief Fired Before Watergate Exhibit Went Up

Categories: OC Media, Politics
Scholars might point to the vast video collection of interviews with Richard Nixon White House officials as the crowning glory of Timothy Naftali's five-year reign as executive director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda.

For the rest of us, Naftali will be remembered for rehabilitating what had been a dreadful Watergate exhibit, succeeding so thoroughly that Nixon loyalists tried to get him canned before the display's March 31, 2011, opening.

That historical tidbit is contained in a piece Maarja Krusten, a former National Archives Nixon tapes specialist, recently contributed to History News Network.

Given Naftali's graceful exit from Yorba Linda, it's up to colleagues like Krusten to fill in the blanks about the pressures the noted George H.W. Bush historian faced trying to bring scholarly balance to the place--as well as just hipping it up in general.

Tim Naftali
If those sound like the kind of moves that would have Dick lovers seeing red, your hearing does not need to be checked.

The move to oust Naftali over the Watergate exhibit was not the only attempt to force him out, according to Krusten. She points to some Nixon White House officials reportedly having approached Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to place a hold on the 2009 Senate confirmation of David S. Ferriero as archivist of the United States pending the delivery of Naftali's head on a platter.

An effort was mounted "by officials below the agency head level at the National Archives" to get Naftali to resign in June 2010, before his long-to-complete exhibit went up, Krusten reports.

Before Ferriero reorganized the National Archives early in 2011, Naftali reported to Sharon Fawcett, the assistant director of Presidential Libraries and 40-year veteran of federal service. She received a lengthy list of objections to Naftali's Watergate exhibit from the private Nixon Foundation in August 2010, according to Krusten.

(Actually, Fawcett received gripes from the foundation about Naftali from after his appointment in 2007 through her retirement in 2011, the historian notes.)

Among the foundation's beefs about the Watergate exhibit: it included historically accurate references to Fred Malek's 1971 "Jew counting" at the Bureau of Labor Statistics at Nixon's behest.

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