Richard M. Nixon: “Checkers”
delivered 23 September 1952
My Fellow Americans,I come before you tonight as a candidate for the Vice Presidency and as a man whose honesty and integrity has been questioned.
Now, the usual political thing to do when charges are made against you is to either ignore them or to deny them without giving details. I believe we've had enough of that in the United States, particularly with the present Administration in Washington, D.C. To me the office of the Vice Presidency of the United States is a great office, and I feel that the people have got to have confidence in the integrity of the men who run for that office and who might obtain it.I have a theory, too, that the best and only answer to a smear or to an honest misunderstanding of the facts is to tell the truth. And that's why I'm here tonight. I want to tell you my side of the case. I'm sure that you have read the charge, and you've heard it, that I, Senator Nixon, took 18,000 dollars from a group of my supporters.
Now, was that wrong? And let me say that it was wrong. I'm saying, incidentally, that it was wrong, not just illegal, because it isn't a question of whether it was legal or illegal, that
isn't enough. The question is, was it morally wrong? I say that it was morally wrong if any of that 18,000 dollars went to Senator Nixon, for my personal use. I say that it was morally
wrong if it was secretly given and secretly handled. And I say that it was morally wrong if any of the contributors got special favors for the contributions that they made.
And now to answer those questions let me say this: Not one cent of the 18,000 dollars or any other money of that type ever went to me for my personal use. Every penny of it was used to pay for political expenses that I did not think should be charged to the taxpayers of the United States. It was not a secret fund. As a matter of fact, when I was on "Meet the Press" some of you may have seen it last Sunday Peter Edson came up to me after the program, and he said, "Dick, what about this "fund" we hear about?" And I said, "Well, there's no secret about it. Go out and see Dana Smith who was the administrator of the fund." And I gave him [Edson] his [Smith's] address. And I said you will find that the purpose of the fund simply was to defray political expenses that I did not feel should be charged to the Government.
And third, let me point out and I want to make this particularly clear that no contributor to this fund, no contributor to any of my campaigns, has ever received any consideration
that he would not have received as an ordinary constituent. I just don't believe in that, and I can say that never, while I have been in the Senate of the United States, as far as the people that contributed to this fund are concerned, have I made a telephone call for them to an agency, or have I gone down to an agency in their behalf. And the records will show that, the records which are in the hands of the administration.
Well, then, some of you will say, and rightly, "Well, what did you use the fund for, Senator?" "Why did you have to have it?" Let me tell you in just a word how a Senate office operates.
First of all, a Senator gets 15,000 dollars a year in salary. He gets enough money to pay for one trip a year a round trip, that is for himself and his family between his home and
Washington, D.C. And then he gets an allowance to handle the people that work in his office to handle his mail. And the allowance for my State of California is enough to
hire 13 people. And let me say, incidentally, that that allowance is not paid to the Senator. It's paid directly to the individuals that the Senator puts on his pay roll. But all of these people and all of these allowances are for strictly official business. business, for example, when a constituent writes in and wants you to go down to the Veteran's Administration and get some information about his GI policy items of that type, for example. But there are other expenses which are not covered by the Government. And I think I can best discuss those expenses by asking you some questions.
Do you think that when I or any other Senator makes a political speech, has it printed, should charge the printing of that speech and the mailing of that speech to the taxpayers? Do you think, for example, when I or any other Senator makes a trip to his home State to make a purely political speech that the cost of that trip should be charged to the taxpayers? Do you think when a Senator makes political broadcasts or political television broadcasts, radio or television, that the expense of those broadcasts should be charged to the taxpayers? Well I know what your answer is. It's the same answer that audiences give me whenever I discuss this particular problem: The answer is no. The taxpayers shouldn't be required to finance items which are not official business but which are primarily political business.
Well, then the question arises, you say, "Well, how do you pay for these and how can you do it legally?" And there are several ways that it can be done, incidentally, and that it is done legally in the United States Senate and in the Congress. The first way is to be a rich man. I don't happen to be a rich man, so I couldn't use that one.
Another way that is used is to put your wife on the pay roll. Let me say, incidentally, that my opponent, my opposite number for the Vice Presidency on the Democratic ticket, does have his wife on the pay roll and has had it her on his pay roll for the ten years for the past ten years. Now just let me say this: That's his business, and I'm not critical of him for doing that. You will have to pass judgment on that particular point.
But I have never done that for this reason: I have found that there are so many deserving stenographers and secretaries in Washington that needed the work that I just didn't feel
it was right to put my wife on the pay roll. My wife's sitting over here. She's a wonderful stenographer. She used to teach stenography and she used to teach shorthand in high school. That was when I met her. And I can tell you folks that she's worked many hours at night and many hours on Saturdays and Sundays in my office, and she's done a fine job, and I am proud to say tonight that in the six years I've been in the House and the Senate of the United States, Pat Nixon has never been on the Government pay roll.
What are other ways that these finances can be taken care of? Some who are lawyers, and I happen to be a lawyer, continue to practice law, but I haven't been able to do that. I'm so far away from California that I've been so busy with my senatorial work that I have not engaged in any legal practice. And, also, as far as law practice is concerned, it seemed to me that the relationship between an attorney and the client was so personal that you couldn't possibly represent a man as an attorney and then have an unbiased view when he presented his case to you in the event that he had one before Government.
And so I felt that the best way to handle these necessary political expenses of getting my message to the American people and the speeches I made the speeches that I had printed for the most part concerned this one message of exposing this Administration, the Communism in it, the corruption in it the only way that I could do that was to accept the aid which people in my home State of California, who contributed to my campaign and who continued to make these contributions after I was elected, were glad to make.
And let me say I'm proud of the fact that not one of them has ever asked me for a special favor. I'm proud of the fact that not one of them has ever asked me to vote on a bill other
than of my own conscience would dictate. And I am proud of the fact that the taxpayers, by subterfuge or otherwise, have never paid one dime for expenses which I thought were political and shouldn't be charged to the taxpayers.
Let me say, incidentally, that some of you may say, "Well, that's all right, Senator, that's your explanation, but have you got any proof?" And I'd like to tell you this evening that just an hour ago we received an independent audit of this entire fund. I suggested to Governor Sherman Adams, who is the Chief of Staff of the Dwight Eisenhower campaign, that an
independent audit and legal report be obtained, and I have that audit here in my hands. It's an audit made by the Price Waterhouse & Company firm, and the legal opinion by Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher, lawyers in Los Angeles, the biggest law firm, and incidentally, one of the best ones in Los Angeles.
I am proud to be able to report to you tonight that this audit and this legal opinion is being forwarded to General Eisenhower. And I'd like to read to you the opinion that was prepared by Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher, and based on all the pertinent laws and statutes, together with the audit report prepared by the certified public accountants. Quote:It is our conclusion that Senator Nixon did not obtain any financial gain from the collection and disbursement of the fund by Dana Smith. that Senator Nixon did not violate any federal
or state law by reason of the operation of the fund. and that neither the portion of the fund paid by Dana Smith directly to third persons, nor the portion paid to Senator Nixon, to
reimburse him for designated office expenses, constituted income to the Senator which was either reportable or taxable as income under applicable tax laws.
Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher,by Elmo H. Conley
Now that, my friends, is not Nixon speaking, but that's an independent audit which was requested, because I want the American people to know all the facts, and I am not afraid of
having independent people go in and check the facts, and that is exactly what they did. But then I realized that there are still some who may say, and rightfully so and let me say that I recognize that some will continue to smear regardless of what the truth may be but that there has been, understandably, some honest misunderstanding on this matter, and there are some that will say, "Well, maybe you were able, Senator, to fake this thing. How can we believe what you say? After all, is there a possibility that maybe you got some sums in cash? Is there a possibility that you may have feathered your own nest?" And so now, what I am going to do and incidentally this is unprecedented in the history of American politics I am going at this time to give to this television and radio audio audience, a complete financial history, everything I've earned, everything I've spent, everything I own. And I want you to know the facts.
I'll have to start early. I was born in 1913. Our family was one of modest circumstances, and most of my early life was spent in a store out in East Whittier. It was a grocery store, one of those family enterprises. The only reason we were able to make it go was because my mother and dad had five boys, and we all worked in the store. I worked my way through college, and, to a great extent, through law school. And then in 1940, probably the best thing that ever happened to me happened. I married Pat who's sitting over here.
We had a rather difficult time after we were married, like so many of the young couples who may be listening to us. I practiced law. She continued to teach school.
Then, in 1942, I went into the service. Let me say that my service record was not a particularly unusual one. I went to the South Pacific. I guess I'm entitled to a couple of battle
stars. I got a couple of letters of commendation. But I was just there when the bombs were falling. And then I returned returned to the United States, and in 1946, I ran for the
When we came out of the war Pat and I Pat during the war had worked as a stenographer, and in a bank, and as an economist for a Government agency and when we came out, the total of our savings, from both my law practice, her teaching and all the time that I was in the war, the total for that entire period was just a little less than 10,000 dollars.
Every cent of that, incidentally, was in Government bonds. Well that's where we start, when I go into politics.
Now, what have I earned since I went into politics? Well, here it is. I've jotted it down. Let me read the notes. First of all, I've had my salary as a Congressman and as a Senator. Second, I have received a total in this past six years of 1600 dollars from estates which were in my law firm at the time that I severed my connection with it. And, incidentally, as I said before, I have not engaged in any legal practice and have not accepted any fees from business that came into the firm after I went into politics. I have made an average of approximately 1500 dollars a year from nonpolitical speaking engagements and lectures.
And then, fortunately, we've inherited a little money. Pat sold her interest in her father's estate for 3,000 dollars, and I inherited 1500 dollars from my grandfather. We lived rather
modestly. For four years we lived in an apartment in Parkfairfax, in Alexandria, Virginia. The rent was 80 dollars a month. And we saved for the time that we could buy a house. Now, that was what we took in. What did we do with this money? What do we have today to show for it? This will surprise you because it is so little, I suppose, as standards generally go of people in public life.
First of all, we've got a house in Washington, which cost 41,000 dollars and on which we owe 20,000 dollars. We have a house in Whittier, California which cost 13,000 dollars and on which we owe 3000 dollars. My folks are living there at the present time. I have just 4000 dollars in life insurance, plus my GI policy which I've never been able to convert, and which will run out in two years. I have no life insurance whatever on Pat. I have no life insurance on our two youngsters, Tricia and Julie. I own a 1950 Oldsmobile car. We have our furniture. We have no stocks and bonds of any type. We have no interest of any kind, direct or indirect, in any business. Now, that's what we have. What do we owe?
Well in addition to the mortgage, the 20,000 dollar mortgage on the house in Washington, the 10,000 dollar one on the house in Whittier, I owe 4500 dollars to the Riggs Bank in
Washington, D.C., with interest 4 and 1/2 percent. I owe 3500 dollars to my parents, and the interest on that loan, which I pay regularly, because it's the part of the savings they made through the years they were working so hard I pay regularly 4 percent interest. And then I have a 500 dollar loan, which I have on my life insurance.
Well, that's about it. That's what we have. And that's what we owe. It isn't very much. But Pat and I have the satisfaction that every dime that we've got is honestly ours. I should say this, that Pat doesn't have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat, and I always tell her she'd look good in anything.
One other thing I probably should tell you, because if I don't they'll probably be saying this about me, too. We did get something, a gift, after the election. A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore, saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was? It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he'd sent all the way from Texas, black and white, spotted. And our little girl Tricia, the six year old, named it "Checkers." And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog, and I just want to say this, right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it.It isn't easy to come before a nationwide audience and bare your life, as I've done. But I want to say some things before I conclude that I think most of you will agree on. Mr. Mitchell, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, made this statement that if a man couldn't afford to be in the United States Senate, he shouldn't run for the Senate. And I just want to make my position clear. I don't agree with Mr. Mitchell when he says that only a rich man should serve his Government in the United States Senate or in the Congress. I don't believe that represents the thinking of the Democratic Party, and I know that it doesn't represent the thinking of the Republican Party.
I believe that
it's fine that a man
like Governor Stevenson, who inherited a fortune from his
for President. But I also
that it's essential in this country of ours that a
man of modest means can also run
for President, because, you know, remember Abraham
he said: "God must have loved the common
so many of them."
I'm going to
suggest some courses of conduct. First of all, you
papers about other funds,
now. Mr. Stevenson apparently had a couple one
of them in
which a group of business people paid and helped to supplement
the salaries of State
employees. Here is where the money went directly into their pockets, and I think that what
Mr. Stevenson should do should be to come before the American
people, as I have, give the
names of the people that
contributed to that fund, give the names of the people who put
money into their pockets at the same time that
they were receiving money from their State
government and see what favors, if any, they gave out
I don't condemn Mr. Stevenson for what
the facts are in there is a doubt
will be raised.
And as far as Mr.
Sparkman is concerned,
I would suggest the same thing. He's
his wife on
the payroll. I don't condemn him for that, but I
think that he should come
before the American people and indicate what outside sources of income he has had. I would
that under the circumstances both Mr.
Sparkman and Mr. Stevenson
before the American people, as I
have, and make a complete financial
statement as to
history, and if they don't
it will be an admission
they have something to hide.
think you will agree with me because,
folks, remember, a man
that's to be President
of the United States, a man
that's to be Vice President of the United States, must
confidence of all
the people. And that's why I'm doing what I'm doing.
And that's why I
that Mr. Stevenson and Mr. Sparkman, since they are under attack, should do what
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Now let me say this: I know that
this is not the last of the smears. In spite of my explanation
tonight, other smears will be made. Others have been made in the past. And the purpose of
the smears, I
know, is this: to
silence me. to
make me let up.
Well, they just don't know who
they're dealing with. I'm going to tell you
this: I remember in the dark days of the
some of the same columnists, some of the same radio
commentators who are attacking me
now and misrepresenting my position, were violently opposing me at
the time I was after
Alger Hiss. But I continued to fight because I
knew I was right, and I can say to this great
television and radio audience that I have no apologies to
the American people for my part
putting Alger Hiss where he is today. And as far as this is concerned, I intend to continue to
I feel so deeply? Why do
spite of the smears, the misunderstanding,
necessity for a man
to come up here and bare his soul as I
is it necessary for me
to continue this fight? And I want
you why. Because, you see, I
love my country. And I
think my country is in danger.
And I think the only man
that can save America at
this time is
that's running for President, on my ticket Dwight
Eisenhower. You say, "Why do I
think it is in danger?" And I
say, look at the record. Seven years of the TrumanAcheson
Administration, and what's happened? Six hundred million people lost to
the Communists. And
a war in Korea in which we have lost
117,000 American casualties, and I say to all of you that
a policy that
the loss of 600 million people to the Communists, and a war which
us 117,000 American casualties isn't good enough for America.
say that those in
that made the mistakes which caused that war and which resulted in
losses should be kicked out of the State Department just as fast as we get
them out of there.
me say that
Stevenson won't do that because he defends the Truman
policy, and I know that Dwight Eisenhower will do that, and that
he will give America the
Take the problem of corruption. You've read about
the mess in
Washington. Mr. Stevenson can't clean it up because he was picked by the man, Truman,
under whose Administration
the mess was made. You wouldn't trust
the man who
it up. That's Truman. And by the same token you can't trust
the man who was
picked by the man that made the mess to clean
it up and
And so I say, Eisenhower, who owed nothing to
Truman, nothing to
the big city bosses he
can clean up the mess in Washington. Take Communism. I say that as far as
is concerned the danger is great to
In the Hiss case they got the secrets
enabled them to break the American
code. They got
the atomic bomb case which enabled them to get
the secret of the atomic bomb five years
before they would have gotten
by their own devices. And I
say that any man who called the
Alger Hiss case a red herring isn't fit to be President of the United States. I say that a man
who, like Mr. Stevenson, has poohpoohed
and ridiculed the Communist threat
in the United
said that they are phantoms among ourselves. He has accused us that
attempted to expose the Communists, of looking for Communists in the Bureau of Fisheries
and Wildlife. I say that a man who says
isn't qualified to be President of the United
States. And I say that the only man who can lead us in this fight
to rid the
those who are Communists and those who
have corrupted this Government
Eisenhower, because Eisenhower, you
can be sure, recognizes the problem, and he knows
how to deal with
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Now let me that finally, this evening,
to read to
you, just briefly, excerpts from a letter
I received, a letter which after all
this is over no one can
take away from us. It reads as
Dear Senator Nixon,
Since I am only 19 years of age, I
can't vote in this presidential election, but believe me if I
could you and General
Eisenhower would certainly get my vote. My husband is in the Fleet
Marines in Korea.
He' a corpsman on
the front lines and we have a two
month old son
never seen. And I feel confident that with great
Americans like you and General Eisenhower in
House, lonely Americans like myself will be united with their loved ones now
Korea. I only pray to God that you won't be too
late. Enclosed is a small check
help you in
your campaign. Living on $85 a month, it is all
I can afford at present, but let
me know what
Folks, it's a check for 10 dollars, and it's one that I will never cash. And just
let me say this:
We hear a lot about prosperity these days, but I say why can't we have prosperity built on
peace, rather than prosperity built on war? Why can't we have prosperity and an honest
in Washington, D.C., at
the same time? Believe me, we can. And Eisenhower is
can lead this crusade
to bring us that kind of prosperity.
And now, finally, I know
that you wonder whether or not
I am going to stay on the Republican
ticket or resign. Let
me say this: I don't believe that
to quit, because I am not a
incidentally, Pat's not a quitter. After all, her name was Patricia Ryan and she
St. Patrick's day, and you
never quit. But the decision, my friends,
is not mine. I would do nothing that would harm the possibilities of Dwight
become President of the United States. And for that reason I am submitting to
National Committee tonight
this television broadcast
the decision which
it is theirs to
them decide whether my position on
the ticket will
help or hurt. And I am going to
to help them decide.
Wire and write the Republican National Committee whether you
think I should stay on or whether I
should get off. And whatever their decision is, I will abide
But just let
me say this last word: Regardless of what happens, I'm going to continue this
fight. I'm going to campaign
up and down in America until we drive the crooks and the
Communists and those that defend them out of
Washington. And remember folks, Eisenhower
is a great man, believe me.
He's a great man. And a vote for Eisenhower is a vote for what's
good for America.
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