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Book reveals Nixon's feelings on gay people, women, Kissinger

Bill Plante reports from the White House
Nixon tapes shed new light on his views of women, gay people and Jews 03:46

A new book reveals former President Richard Nixon's surprising feelings about women, gay people and Henry Kissinger, CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante reports.

The authors of the book culled through 3,700 hours of audio tape to find these nuggets.

They reveal a president with views that many today will find antiquated and offensive, but there are a few surprises.

In April 1971, Richard Nixon proclaimed that he was sympathetic to the plight of gay people.

"I am the most tolerant person on that of anybody in this shop," he said. "They have a problem. They're born that way. You know that. That's all. I think they are."

But Nixon's tolerance still had its limits.

"Boy Scout leaders, YMCA leaders and others bring them in that direction and teachers," Nixon said. "And if you look over the history of societies, you will find, of course, that some of the highly intelligent people - Oscar Wilde, Aristotle, etc., etc., etc., were all homosexuals ... Once a society moves in that direction, the vitality goes out of that society."

In that same discussion, with his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman, and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, Nixon also revealed his views on women who curse.

"A man drunk and a man who swears - people will tolerate and say that's a sign of masculinity or something other damn thing. We all do it. We all swear," he said. "But you show me a girl who swears, and I'll show you an awful unattractive person."

The audio clips were released by Vanity Fair, which published an excerpt from the upcoming book, "The Nixon Tapes" by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter.

One transcript suggests Nixon was worried about Kissinger, one of his closest aides, getting too involved in Middle East policy because Kissinger was Jewish.

"You know, put yourself in his position," Nixon told Haldeman. "Good God! You know, his people were crucified over there. Jesus Christ! And 5 million of them, popped into bake ovens! What the hell does he feel about all this?"

Kissinger himself had little sympathy for the plight of Jews in the Soviet Union.

"I'm Jewish myself, but who are we to complain about Soviet Jews?" Kissinger told Nixon. "You know, it's none of our business how they treat their people."

And the president who famously thawed relations with Communist China found the Chinese baffling.

"You never can predict how the Chinese are," he told Kissinger. "Because they are Chinese, not because they're Communists. The Russians are more predictable because they're doctrinaire."

The tapes have given enormous insight into the day-to-day life of the Nixon Oval Office. But the great irony is that he saw that taping system as a way to help him write the history of his presidency. And the tapes have made history for sure but hardly the way that Nixon intended.

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