Most people know Richard Nixon secretly taped Oval Office conversations during his presidency. But few are aware that three of Nixon’s top aides obsessively used home movie cameras to document their time at the White House; capturing everything from private moments on Air Force One to a visit to the Beijing Opera during Nixon’s trip to China. The footage was buried in archives until recently, but along with newsreels and interviews, it’s now featured in a new documentary. We meet the filmmakers and explore the Nixon presidency through the lens of a Super 8 movie camera.

Guests

  • Brian Frye Co-producer, “Our Nixon;” Writer; professor of law at the University of Kentucky
  • Penny Lane Director, "Our Nixon;" Filmmaker, writer, video artist; Professor of film, video and media art.

Excerpts From “Our Nixon”

Clips from “Our Nixon” by Penny Lane and Brian L. Frye. Copyright © 2013 with permission of CNN. All rights reserved.

“Our Nixon” Movie Trailer

Transcript

  • 12:26:08

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIWelcome back. We all know about the Oval Office tapes President Richard Nixon made during his time in the White House, but few people know that his three top aides obsessively filmed their time with the administration using Super 8 home movie cameras. They documented large and small moments, from the historic trip to China and the propaganda ballet they saw there to time spent just horsing around while on vacation.

  • 12:26:32

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIThat footage is now featured in a new documentary film, giving us a glimpse into the personal relationships among the men who would later land in prison for their roles in the Watergate scandal. And joining us to discuss "Our Nixon" is Brian Frye. He is a filmmaker and co-producer of this documentary. He's also a writer and professor of law at the University of Kentucky. He joins us in studio. Brian Frye, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:27:00

    PROF. BRIAN FRYEThank you.

  • 12:27:01

    NNAMDIJoining us from NPR's Bryant Park studios in New York is Penny Lane. She is the director of the documentary. She's also a video artist, writer and professor of film, video and media art. Penny Lane, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:27:15

    PROF. PENNY LANEThanks for having me.

  • 12:27:16

    NNAMDIThe documentary "Our Nixon" airs tonight at nine on CNN. That's tonight, Aug. 1, 9 p.m. on CNN. If you have questions or comments, call us at 800-433-8850. Were you around during the Nixon era? What are your more prominent memories about Richard Nixon or his administration? 800-433-8850. Brian, the names of the three Nixon aids who shot these home movies will be familiar to most who recall the Nixon administration. Tell us about the men behind these Super 8 cameras.

  • 12:27:51

    FRYERight. Well, they were one of the youngest White House staffs in history, H. R. Haldeman, John...

  • 12:27:56

    NNAMDIThirty-four.

  • 12:27:57

    FRYEThirty-four. John Ehrlichman...

  • 12:27:59

    NNAMDIForty-three.

  • 12:28:00

    FRYE...and Dwight Chapin.

  • 12:28:01

    NNAMDITwenty-seven...

  • 12:28:02

    FRYETwenty-seven, yeah.

  • 12:28:02

    NNAMDI...at the time.

  • 12:28:03

    FRYEAnd Haldeman was an ad man and brought Ehrlichman into the administration with him. So Haldeman was Nixon's chief of staff. Ehrlichman was, initially, White House counsel and later became the president's chief advisor on domestic policy. And, actually, he was, at least, largely responsible for the passage of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, was a promoter of Earth Day, a really ardent environmentalist. And Dwight Chapin worked in the ad agency that Haldeman worked at and came onboard with Haldeman as the president's scheduling secretary.

  • 12:28:45

    NNAMDIPenny Lane, what did these men film and why?

  • 12:28:49

    LANEYeah. So just a real quick clarification, Haldeman was actually 43 when he came into the White House in 1969. But just so no one says we were wrong about that.

  • 12:28:59

    NNAMDII was. You weren't. I was.

  • 12:29:02

    LANENo, it's fine. What they filmed was everything. I mean, in short, you know, they were in the White House. They were on tour with Nixon. They saw places of the world that most Americans never had a chance to see, especially since before the Internet and, you know, things like that. So they got to go to Iran. They got to go China. They got to go to Russia, Thailand, Vietnam.

  • 12:29:23

    FRYERomania.

  • 12:29:24

    LANEGuam, Romania. So, you know, there's some footage in the film that's quite, you know, sort of epic in scale at the Republican National Committee and -- sorry -- the convention in 1972. And then there's just, you know, shooting pictures of squirrels on the White House lawn. I mean, it's everything from the most banal, boring day to the most epic and world changing.

  • 12:29:48

    NNAMDIPenny, this film manages to catch the mood, the optimism, the energy of that young staff in the early days of the administration. Can you talk about that?

  • 12:29:57

    LANEYeah. It was really infectious to Brian and I. We spent, you know, we went into this film without a real, kind of definite purpose. We thought there's something about these home movies that's fascinating, and what kind of film could we make that would honor them and highlight them and use them to tell some kind of story that hasn't been told before?

  • 12:30:15

    LANEAnd watching the home movies, you can't help it. You kind of, you know, root for these guys. You know, it doesn't really matter where you come from. Actually, you can't not relate to them in these images. You think, gosh, what an amazing thing to be a part of. And they look so happy, and they look so excited, and they're working so hard. And, you know, there's a lot dramatic irony to it, right, because we know the end.

  • 12:30:41

    NNAMDIYep.

  • 12:30:41

    LANEWe now that this is going to end badly, and they don't. And sometimes that's funny, and sometimes that's really heartbreaking. And that was really what wanted to get at with the film we made.

  • 12:30:51

    NNAMDILet's talk about Super 8 films. Some of us remember it from those early home cameras. What kind of technology was it at the time?

  • 12:30:58

    FRYERight. Well, Super 8 film was really new, actually, when these guys were shooting film. It was introduced only a few years earlier prior to the introduction of Super 8. You actually had to be a pretty experienced amateur photographer to make movies. You had to use a light meter, and you had to be able to manually load a camera.

  • 12:31:15

    FRYEAnd Super 8 was kind of this revolution in moviemaking where you could just snap a cartridge into a camera that automatically expose the film properly for you, and all you had to do was focus, which, sadly, was still sometimes a problem for some people. But nevertheless, it really made it -- it made it possible for a much larger number of people to shoot movie film much easier. So it's a real revolution in amateur filmmaking.

  • 12:31:40

    NNAMDIHow much film footage was there?

  • 12:31:42

    FRYEI believe there was -- Penny, was there 500 plus reels of film that...

  • 12:31:46

    LANEYeah. It's about 26 hours.

  • 12:31:48

    FRYERight. And so basically, what happened was the Naval Photographic Center supplied Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Chapin with pretty much all the free film they wanted, and they would process and make prints of the films for them. So they really felt free to make -- to shoot as much film as they wanted to.

  • 12:32:07

    FRYEAnd it's interesting, I was on a panel at a screening of the film in Lexington, Ky., with John Carroll who is covering the White House at the time, and he actually remarked me that he and the other journalists who are covering the White House were really irritated by how frequently they saw Haldeman and Ehrlichman, especially Haldeman with his movie camera out all time.

  • 12:32:27

    NNAMDIDidn't realize that decades later, he would run into that footage again.

  • 12:32:32

    FRYEExactly. He was so surprised to see it.

  • 12:32:34

    NNAMDIHow'd you come across this extraordinary material?

  • 12:32:36

    FRYEWell, it's interesting. So what happened was Ehrlichman had a print of the home movies in his office when the FBI confiscated his office's contents during the Watergate investigation. And so this material was caught up in all that material. And it's just kind of sat at the National Archives for a long time because, you know, it just -- it didn't really bear on the abuse of power issues that people were really interested in.

  • 12:33:02

    FRYESo it was very low on the list of priorities of things to be preserved. But eventually in the late '90s, early 2000s, my friend Bill Brand, who's a film professor at Hampshire College, told me that he was working on a preservation project, you know, preserving Super 8 films to 16 millimeter. And he showed them to me 'cause I was a big amateur film buff and…

  • 12:33:27

    NNAMDISo even though they were confiscated by the FBI, they were not classified.

  • 12:33:32

    FRYENo. They were -- Well, yeah. I mean, basically what happened was, the material was confiscated for the investigation and it was held. But then, Congress passed a special statute just for the Nixon administration saying that everything that had been created by the Nixon White House, all the materials, documents, photographs, recordings, anything...

  • 12:33:51

    LANEHaldeman's personal diary even.

  • 12:33:52

    FRYE...Haldeman's personal diary, anything that anyone on the White House staff made in their capacity as a White House employee was a property of the United States government 'cause they wanted to make sure -- prior to that, the practice had been that presidents had personal ownership of everything that was created in the White House since.

  • 12:34:08

    FRYESo they would take it away from the White House with them and then decide themselves what would become the property of the government, what they would give back essentially. And here, Congress obviously didn't want the President to be picking and choosing what was going to be available to the special prosecutor.

  • 12:34:25

    FRYESo they just quickly passed a statute taking everything. The Nixon estate -- or Nixon and later the Nixon estate actually fought that for a long time. They lost on the takings claim so the government got to keep the material but did ultimately win on a Fifth Amendment's taking. And they -- I believe it was 30 million or more. It was a lot of money ultimately that the Justice Department paid to the Nixon estate in a settlement, most of which went to the Nixon Library.

  • 12:34:53

    NNAMDIAnd when all of that...

  • 12:34:54

    LANEAnd here you can tell which of us is a law professor.

  • 12:34:56

    NNAMDIYes, because when all of these legal proceedings were over, a friend of yours found that this material was available. What got you interested in it?

  • 12:35:04

    FRYEWell, he just -- what happened was the National Archives finally got around to preserving the material. You know, they had been working on the tapes for a very long time, and then somebody said, gee, you know, we have these movies as well. We should make sure to preserve them. And so they hired him. They hired Bill to do this preservation. And kind of the standard practice when you're preserving small-gauge film at that time was to blow it up to 16 millimeters, so that's what he did.

  • 12:35:29

    FRYEBut they didn't have the funding to do video transfers. So the movie is kind of just still were just sitting there for a long time. They weren't really accessible. And so I'd only seen -- Penny and I had only seen like eight or 10 minutes of film, basically one reel, and we just said, you know, we're going to go for it. And we went ahead and invested about, I think, it was about $18,000 of our own money, sight unseen, to pay for the National Archives to make video transfers of all the material so that we could see it.

  • 12:35:55

    FRYEAnd we were just kind of waiting and we got it. And we just spent, you know, two weeks just looking at the material, thinking about what we would do with it. And just so people know, shortly, we're going to be putting the entire body of Super 8 films on archive.org 'cause they are in the public demand. They belong to the American people. And we want to make sure that people have access to all the material, including the stuff that we couldn't find before in the film 'cause there's a lot of great stuff.

  • 12:36:22

    NNAMDIPenny, it's my understanding you had a Kickstarter campaign to get this film off the ground back in 2010. Tell us about that.

  • 12:36:29

    LANEWe did, yeah. It was a really great experience. As Brian said, we had already invested, you know, a fair amount of money for us in getting these. And as soon as we had them and we started realizing that we definitely had a great film that could come out of it, we did a Kickstarter campaign. And it was partly to reimburse ourselves for the cost of the transfers, which we did.

  • 12:36:50

    LANEBut it was also partly to find out who else was interested, you know. I mean, Brian and I are both younger -- we weren't around during the Nixon presidency. And I think at the beginning, we had some doubt whether people would be interested in Nixon anymore. I mean, don't you think, Brian?

  • 12:37:06

    FRYEYeah, sort of. Yeah, we didn't know who our audience was.

  • 12:37:07

    LANEAnd we were just sort of like, OK. Well, we think this is interesting, but maybe no one else will. And then it was really from doing the Kickstarter campaign that we discovered that, yeah, there are a lot of people really obsessed with Richard Nixon.

  • 12:37:21

    LANEA lot. And so it really helped us find our audience. It helped us find producers that came onto the film and helped us make it. It helped put the film on the map. We got actually a lot of press from the Kickstarter campaign. So it really sent us off on...

  • 12:37:34

    FRYEYeah.

  • 12:37:34

    LANEIt really put the wind in our sails.

  • 12:37:36

    FRYEYeah. It was very funny. We would joke, you know, that the headline for all those newspaper articles should have been something like people making movie, may or may not be good. But hopefully, it's turned out pretty good. People seem to like it.

  • 12:37:47

    NNAMDILet's see who in our listening audience might still be interested in Richard Nixon. Why do you think the Nixon administration still fascinates many of us to this day? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Were you around during the Nixon era? Tell us your more prominent memories about Richard Nixon or his administration. 800-433-8850. Let's go to the phones because Murad (sp?) in Baltimore has a question about process. Murad, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:38:15

    MURADThank you for taking my call, Kojo. Fascinating program. I was around during the 1970s in the second Nixon administration. And I had occasion actually to meet both President Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew because I was working at the time at the Smithsonian on the 1976 bicentennial celebration.

  • 12:38:37

    MURADBut that's just as a side comment. I'm fascinated by this -- the report. I have a brief observation and two quick questions. The observation is just for everybody's benefit, the country's name is Iran, not Iran as often made mistakes. It's Iran and Iraq, not Iran and Iraq. And...

  • 12:38:55

    NNAMDIShow off.

  • 12:38:57

    MURADSorry. Sorry.

  • 12:38:58

    LANENo, I'm sorry. That was me.

  • 12:39:00

    NNAMDIGo ahead, please.

  • 12:39:00

    LANEIt is important.

  • 12:39:00

    MURADThat's OK. That's all right.

  • 12:39:01

    NNAMDIGo ahead, Murad.

  • 12:39:02

    MURADThat's for your listenership as well. The second -- the first question I have is I remember Super 8 millimeter very well, and I remember video very well too. But I would like your guests to talk about what considerations they gave to the format issues because, nowadays, my younger generation tells me that even, you know, things like DVD-R discs are becoming obsolete. So if this is going to be used in the future, what consideration was given to the formatting of the film?

  • 12:39:35

    MURADAnd the second quick question I have is could they talk a little bit about how they went about going to 20 hours -- 20-plus hours of film? And, you know, did they write a script or book saying, you know, we're going to do this or that? Or did they inventory everything? I would like to know a little bit more how they went about putting together this film.

  • 12:39:53

    NNAMDISure. Questions about formatting, questions about process. You want to start first, Brian?

  • 12:39:58

    FRYESure. Yeah. So the Super 8 films, we actually made video transfers of them. So this film was all made on video, not on film. So what we did is we had this fellow, Jeff Kreines, who invented a -- kind of a new experimental scanning machine called the Kinetta, went to the Nixon Library and made super high-resolution scans of the Super 8 films, 4K scans of the Super 8 films. So you really see the quality of the original material. You know, it really picks up the detail and the grain, the richness of the color, the sharpness of the film.

  • 12:40:37

    FRYESo it really pops on screen. I think, you know, anyone who's a small-gauge or film enthusiast will, I think, really be blown away by the look of the movie. It really captures what's so exciting and beautiful about Super 8 that so many movies make it look kind of crummy, and it's not. It's really very beautiful material. And I'll leave the process question to Penny because...

  • 12:40:57

    NNAMDIYeah, Penny, because how were these movies organized in the archives? And Super 8 films are just three minutes long. That must have added to the editing challenges, do they not?

  • 12:41:07

    LANEYeah. They weren't organized is the short answer. We just got them and they were in just totally random order. And the National Archives had created a guide to some of it, so there was a little bit of information to go along with it.

  • 12:41:20

    FRYEYeah, the original guide was very amusing. It must have been put together by someone who was like a military aviation buff because the only thing that was carefully categorized was every single military airplane that flew by in the screen had a very detailed description of what it was, but none of the world leaders were identified in (unintelligible).

  • 12:41:38

    LANEYeah, so we couldn't tell, like, who was in the image, but we knew exactly what kind of fighter jet that was.

  • 12:41:45

    LANEBut, yeah, so it was -- but it was really a great process. And I think it's worth mentioning that the film is actually all archival, which means that we didn't actually shoot anything. So when people watch the film on CNN or in theaters, you know, they might think that we did some of the interviews or that, you know, that we added -- but we didn't do anything like that. Everything that's in the film is something that we located in the historical record.

  • 12:42:08

    NNAMDIHow did Bob Haldeman's diary -- I mean, how did Haldeman's diary help you?

  • 12:42:13

    LANEOh, his diary was fantastic. So Haldeman was not necessarily a great teller of stories. He was very dry. But he was...

  • 12:42:23

    FRYEBorderline autistic.

  • 12:42:25

    LANEHe was -- well -- and -- we mean that in the nicest way.

  • 12:42:27

    FRYEYes.

  • 12:42:27

    LANEWe have great affection for Haldeman actually. But, you know, but he was an excellent documenter and he wrote down every single thing that happened every single day that he was in the White House. And he also kept an audio diary where he did the same thing.

  • 12:42:44

    LANEAnd we used excerpts from his audio diary in the film to describe some of the events that are going on. But also, we are able to use his diary to help identify people and places and events in the whole movie. So if we were able to figure out, for example, that we were in Idaho Falls, we knew we could go into Haldeman's diary, look in the index, find Idaho Falls and then figure out what date it was.

  • 12:43:07

    NNAMDIWow. We're going to take a short break. But you know you can go to our website, kojoshow.org, and see some clips from the movie there. We're going to play one of the clips from the movie when we come back. If you have called, stay on the line, we will get to your calls. But we still have lines open, so you can call us at 800-433-8850.

  • 12:43:25

    NNAMDIWhy do you think the Nixon Administration still fascinates many of us to this day? You can also send email to kojo@wamu.org. We're talking with the co-producers of the documentary "Our Nixon," which airs tonight at 9 p.m. on CNN. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:45:34

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation with Penny Lane. She is the director of the documentary "Our Nixon." She's also a video artist, writer and professor of film, video and media art. She joins us from NPR's Bryant Park Studios in New York. Joining us in our Washington studio is Brian Frye. He is a filmmaker and co-producer of "Our Nixon." He's also a writer and professor of law at the University of Kentucky.

  • 12:45:57

    NNAMDIOne thing this film reveals is the culture clash between those inside the White House and society at large. You're about to hear a clip from when the Ray Conniff Singers appeared at the White House. First, you'll hear President Nixon talking about the Ray Conniff Singers, then you will hear a member of the group and then they sing. But listen to the sequence.

  • 12:46:21

    PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXONAnd now to commemorate this event, we have as our special guests tonight the Ray Conniff Singers. It's very difficult to describe them. Most of you have heard them. And if the music is square, it's because I like a square.

  • 12:46:47

    MS. CAROL FERACIPresident Nixon, stop bombing human beings, animals and vegetation. You go to church on Sundays and pray to Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ were here tonight, you would not dare drop another bomb. Bless the Berrigans, and bless Daniel Ellsberg.

  • 12:47:18

    NNAMDIBrian Frye, that sounds positively bizarre.

  • 12:47:22

    FRYEYeah. It's a really...

  • 12:47:23

    NNAMDIThis is going on in the White House.

  • 12:47:25

    FRYEIt's a really crazy moment that kind of got lost to history. So, you know, it's kind of a lesson for filmmakers working in archives to always ask the archivist what their favorite clip is that no one's used before because that sequence was introduced by Ryan Pettigrew, who's the AV archivist at the Nixon Library.

  • 12:47:46

    FRYEAnd Penny just asked him, you know, what's the best thing in your collection that no one's used before? And he immediately pulled that clip. And, you know, the best I can say is it just kind of got overshadowed by the Pentagon Papers and Ellsberg and so on and sort of got forgotten. But she was actually a Canadian woman who was brought on as a replacement at the very last minute and...

  • 12:48:11

    NNAMDIFor one of the regular Ray Conniff Singers.

  • 12:48:12

    FRYEFrom one of the regular singers and saw that as her opportunity to kind of intervene in a really, really public way.

  • 12:48:20

    LANEAt first, she said, no, oh, there's no way I will go to that White House and perform for that man. But then she realized that she had this opportunity to do something, you know, dramatic, and she did. And she was actually removed from the stage at the conclusion of that song. And I believe it was Martha Mitchell that yelled out, throw her off the stage, and she left.

  • 12:48:43

    NNAMDIThat sounds like Martha.

  • 12:48:43

    LANEGood old Martha Mitchell.

  • 12:48:44

    FRYEYeah. Penny, wasn't there a phone call where Nixon was talking to Haldeman or someone like later that day?

  • 12:48:51

    LANEYeah. Yeah. People can find this on the Internet if they Google Ray Conniff Singers and, you know, Nixon tape or something. But, yeah, he describes the whole incident in great detail the next day, and he's really stuck on the fact that she was very good-looking girl.

  • 12:49:05

    NNAMDIFascinating. Here is Fred in Falls Church, Va. Fred, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:49:11

    FREDYes. I was in college when Eisenhower was president, and I joined the Y.R.'s and then I came down to D.C. in '62. And so I was active in the Y.R.'s, but I was working for the government. But after Nixon was elected both times, my friends in Y.R.'s had the White House call up and say, "We need Fred to work on the inaugural committee.

  • 12:49:38

    FREDSo I got to work in both inaugural committees and go to all the events and meet the people and everything. And one thing about Nixon was that, you know, like, you know, besides his problem was maybe, you know, paranoid had got him in trouble. But, you know, besides going to China and opening up relations there, he passed the EPA, and Title IX was also done during his administration.

  • 12:50:04

    FREDAnd since then, I don't think he wouldn't be able to be in the Republican Party now 'cause I'd switched after Reagan got in and everything, and they just keep getting worse. But anyway, I had, you know, a great time then working on in all those committees, and I met Nixon at a Y.R. convention in Florida.

  • 12:50:27

    NNAMDIFred, thank you very much for your call. Care to comment, Brian?

  • 12:50:29

    FRYESure. Yeah. It's an interesting point Fred makes. I mean, Nixon really is a study in contradictions in a lot of ways, and I think a lot of people sometimes forget many of the policies he passed while he's in office, you know, add to that the earned income credit was something Nixon did, lowering the voting age to 18. I mean, you just got on and on.

  • 12:50:50

    LANEEnding the draft. Yeah.

  • 12:50:51

    FRYEI mean, there's a reason Noam Chomsky referred to Nixon as our last Liberal president.

  • 12:50:57

    NNAMDIYou say, Penny, that from the audiences' perspective, and that would be indicated by our last caller who served on both inaugural committees, that people come to a film like this with baggage. Can you explain?

  • 12:51:09

    LANESure. Yeah. I mean, I think that people want -- a lot of people want to know if this is a pro-Nixon film or an anti-Nixon film. And I think that a lot of people are kind of want us as filmmakers to force this into that -- into those categories. And all I can say is that we personally weren't -- we didn't have a horse in that race. We're not really that invested in the discourse of pro or anti. It's interesting, but we don't take sides in that debate.

  • 12:51:36

    LANEWe're more looking to add complexity and nuance and, in some sense, contradiction rather than having less complexity. And so, you know, for us, we knew that people would come in to the film with a lot of information and feelings, a lot of very strong feelings, in fact, about this man, that era and his staff in these events. And so we really kind of took advantage of that.

  • 12:51:59

    LANEWe wanted people to have the ability to watch the film with their own opinions and be a little bit challenged in their own opinions but also, you know, find some confirmation of what they already believe. It leads to a very interesting discussion afterwards when people walk away from the film with very different takeaways. It's great people are passionate, and we really encourage and respect and welcome different opinions about what the ultimate kind of message or takeaway of the film is.

  • 12:52:29

    NNAMDIAnd we got an email from Annie, who says, "Do Brian and Penny want to address the controversy regarding the phone call after the speech?" And I guess what Annie is referring to is the fact that Dwight Chapin, the only one of those three men still alive, takes issue with the movie. He feels it's a partisan film, even misleading at some point, having to do with the fact that Nixon's silent majority speech is followed in the film by Nixon seeming to react to that speech. But, in fact, the footage is from Nixon reacting to a different speech. What do you say about that, Brian Frye?

  • 12:53:02

    FRYESure. Yeah. I mean, so basically after every speech, Nixon and Haldeman had a phone call where they would kind of recap in excruciating detail all of the press and cabinet reactions to the speech. And, you know, in this particular call, they're talking about a speech in which Nixon made a Vietnam speech. I believe it was somewhat '71 or so.

  • 12:53:28

    LANEIt was April in '71.

  • 12:53:30

    FRYEApril '71, in which he related an anecdote about giving a posthumous Medal of Honor and the soldiers -- the fallen soldiers, little boys, spontaneously saluted when the medal was given to the mother. And then in the phone call, you know, Nixon's kind of preening and talking about what a great job he did. And, you know, I did it with a work of art, you know, this kind of thing. And, you know, we tried using that speech, and it -- A, it didn't make a lot of -- it was sort of out of context.

  • 12:53:58

    FRYEAnd, B, it made Nixon look kind of worse than, you know, we really were comfortable with. We wanted to represent him, you know, in one of his powerful speeches to really give a sense of how he was moving the American public. And we really felt that the silent majority speech was a better representation of Nixon's ability to talk about Vietnam and his policies to the American public.

  • 12:54:21

    FRYESo while it is technically true that it's a different speech, the things that they're talking about are really not specific to the speech that he made. And so we felt that it was actually in -- not a significant problem. I mean, you know, I don't -- I'm a little puzzled what people find misleading about it really. I mean, other than the fact that there's -- it's a pastiche, but, you know, the whole forms are pastiche. It's all composed of collaged elements.

  • 12:54:50

    FRYEAnd I don't really see how it's any different than, you know, somebody lifting a word out of context. I mean, you know, we're not trying to present something out of context. We weren't trying to create a misleading impression about Nixon in any way in that edit. I think it was just a way of trying to convey what the relationship between Nixon and Haldeman was and how they talked about Nixon speeches.

  • 12:55:12

    NNAMDIHere is Barbara...

  • 12:55:12

    LANEIt's not really a controversy either. I mean, I got to say, I'm the one who told Dwight Chapin that I did that. I wasn't trying to hide it.

  • 12:55:20

    LANENot exactly I got you if I am the one who talked about it.

  • 12:55:22

    FRYEYeah. I mean, that really, frankly, you know, that kind of collaging is what you do when you make a movie. And the important thing is to try to convey a impression that's respectful of what, you know, the truth that you're trying to convey in a particular sequence.

  • 12:55:39

    NNAMDIThis film also touches on the Pentagon Papers, which happened to be very much in the news these days because of the Bradley Manning case as well as Edward Snowden, the national security leaker or whistleblower, depending on what point of view you take. Take us back, though, to this period in the film. What were the Pentagon Papers? And what parallels do you see with today?

  • 12:55:57

    FRYESure. Well, the Pentagon Papers were a report on America's involvement in Vietnam that were created during the LBJ administration. And that...

  • 12:56:08

    NNAMDILeaked by Daniel Ellsberg to the media indicating that the Johnson administration had not exactly told us the truth about what was going on.

  • 12:56:16

    FRYERight, right. So, yeah, Ellsberg was an employee, I believe, with the RAND Corporation. And so over the course of a long period of time, he photocopied this massive quantity of documents and (word?) them to The New York Times and so on. And actually the Pentagon Papers weren't critical of Nixon per se at all.

  • 12:56:32

    FRYEThey ended the coverage of the paper -- the Pentagon Papers ended before Nixon actually took office. But Nixon and Kissinger and members of his staff were very upset about the fact that there were these security breaches. And they wanted very badly to prevent that kind of leaking from taking place. And they really...

  • 12:56:51

    NNAMDISounds familiar today.

  • 12:56:53

    FRYEYeah. Well, and, you know, the problem is that they really overstepped their legal authority and authorized illegal wiretaps of many journalists and, you know, tried breaking into Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office in order to look for incriminating information to show that Ellsberg was mentally unstable and so on. And while we do know that the current administration as well as its predecessor have engaged in an awful lot of wiretapping themselves, at least so far I'm not aware of allegations that it's technically illegal.

  • 12:57:31

    NNAMDIAnd with the latest news that Edward Snowden has now been granted asylum at least for a year in Russia, that part of the story will continue. This part of the story for the time being is over because we are out of time, but the documentary "Our Nixon" will be airing tonight at nine on CNN. Brian Frye, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:57:49

    FRYEThank you so much.

  • 12:57:50

    NNAMDIBrian Frye is a filmmaker and co-producer of "Our Nixon." He's a writer and professor of law at the University of Kentucky. Penny Lane, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:57:58

    LANEThanks. It was a lot of fun.

  • 12:57:59

    NNAMDIPenny Lane is director of the documentary. She's also a video artist, writer and professor of film, video and media art. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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