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Richard Nixon's resignation speech

Richard Nixon's resignation speech was an address made on August 8, 1974, by President of the United States Richard Nixon to the American public. It was delivered in the Oval Office. The purpose of the speech was for Nixon, who had been intimately involved in the events surrounding the Watergate scandal that occurred during his controversial re-election campaign in 1972, to announce to the nation that he was resigning from office.[1] Watergate had cost Nixon much of his political support, and at the time of his resignation, he faced almost certain impeachment and removal from office.

Nixon was the ninth incumbent president not to complete the four-year term to which they had been elected since the presidency was established in 1789. He was however, the first to do so for a reason other than dying in office.[2] His presidential resignation remains the only one in U.S. history.



With the release on August 5, 1974 of several taped Oval Office conversations, one of which was the "smoking gun" tape, recorded soon after the break-in, and which demonstrated that Richard Nixon had been told of the White House connection to the Watergate burglaries soon after they took place, and had approved plans to thwart the investigation, Nixon's popular support all but evaporated,[3] and his political support collapsed.

Nixon met with Republican congressional leaders two days later, and was told he faced certain impeachment in the House and likely removal from office in the Senate. That night, knowing his presidency was effectively over, Nixon finalized his decision to resign.[2][4]

The president's speechwriter Raymond K. Price wrote the resignation speech.[2] It was delivered on the evening of August 8, 1974 from the Oval Office and was carried live on radio and television.[4]

Critical reaction and analysisEdit

Jack Nelson of the Los Angeles Times wrote that Nixon's speech "chose to look ahead," rather than focus on his term.[5] This attribute of the speech coincides with John Poulakos's definition of sophistical rhetoric in Towards a Sophistic Definition of Rhetoric, because Nixon met the criterion of "[seeking] to capture what was possible"[6] instead of reflecting on his term.

In the British paper The Times the article Mr. Nixon resigns as President; On this day by Fred Emery took a more negative stance on the speech, characterizing Nixon's apology as "cursory" and attacking Nixon's definition of what it meant to serve a full presidential term. Emery suggests Nixon's definition of a full presidential term as "until the president loses support in Congress" implies that Nixon knew he would not win his impending impeachment trial and he was using this definition to quickly escape office.[7]

In his book Nixon: Ruin and Recovery 1973-1990, Stephen Ambrose finds that response from United States media to Nixon's speech was generally favorable. This book cites Roger Mudd of CBS News as an example of someone who disliked the speech. Mudd noted that Nixon re-framed his resignation speech to accent his accomplishments rather than to apologize for the Watergate scandal.[8]


  1. ^ Nixon, Richard (orator) (1974). SP 3-125 Presidential Address Announcing His Intention to Resign the Oval Office (Broadcast speech with audio). Oval Office: C-SPAN.
  2. ^ a b c Herbers, John (1974-08-08). "Nixon Resigns". The New York Times. New York. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  3. ^ Schmidt, Steffen W. (2013), American Government and Politics Today, 2013-2014 Edition, Wadsworth Publishing, p. 181, ISBN 978-1133602132, In 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned in the wake of a scandal when it was obvious that public opinion no longer supported him.
  4. ^ a b Klein, Christopher (August 8, 2014). "The Last Hours of the Nixon Presidency, 40 Years Ago". History in the Headlines. New York: A&E Networks. Retrieved June 22, 2017.
  5. ^ Nelson, Jack (August 9, 1974). "Nixon Resigns in 'Interests of Nation': Cites His Achievements for Peace as His Legacy". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  6. ^ Poulakos, John (1983). "Towards a Sophistic Definition of Rhetoric". Philosophy and Rhetoric. 16: 35.
  7. ^ Emery, Fred (August 9, 1999). "Nixon Resigns in 'Interests of Nation': Cites His Achievements for Peace as His Legacy". The Times. London, England: Times Newspapers. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  8. ^ Ambrose, Stephen E. (1991). Nixon: Ruin and Recovery 1973–1990. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-69188-2.

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