The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan welcomed law professor Ken Gormley as he reviewed the historic points leading up to President Gerald R. Ford announcing that he granted former President Richard Nixon a full and absolutely pardon. Benton Becker was scheduled to join in person, but he provided remarks via video and Gormley spoke on behalf of Becker’s first-person point of view of the pardon.
Foundation Trustee Benton Becker served as Special Counsel to President Gerald R. Ford and was the Lead Counsel at then-Congressman Gerald R. Ford’s Congressional Hearings in both the House and Senate during his confirmation as Vice President. President Ford selected Becker to travel to California and negotiate the terms of Richard Nixon’s Pardon with the former President.
Ken Gormley is Dean and Professor at the Duquesne Law School in Pittsburgh, PA and is an expert on Watergate. Gormley is the author of “Archibald Cox: Conscience of a Nation”, which details President Nixon’s attempts to fire Cox from his position as Watergate Special Prosecutor, as Cox was uncovering the truth behind the White House involvement in Watergate and cover-up.
Tom Brokaw, via taped remarks, spoke on the time period of 1974, the turbulent times surrounding Watergate, Nixon’s guilt, Nixon’s resignation, Ford’s decision to grant the pardon, along with Ford’s and Nixon’s lasting legacy.
Gormley began his remarks touching on the impressive Nixon re-election in 1972 and the subsequent details that unfolded regarding new evidence on the Watergate Incident, along with the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew because his own corruption scandal. While the nation was reeling from the cultural times of the early 1970s, Congressional Gerald R. Ford became Vice President and then 38th President of the United States.
Gormley reflected on how Gerald R. Ford believed that the Nixon pardon was the only course to take because the country would never be able to move on from Watergate and Nixon if the former President was still in the news throughout a lengthy public trail. Leading up to the pardon, President Ford also had to deal with the Nixon tapes, Nixon’s White House Staff continued allegiance to their former Chief and the Watergate Special Prosecution.
Via video tape, Benton Becker described the setting at the Nixon compound in California and the negotiations. Becker stated that the Nixon team refused to accept the pardon as that would be an admission of guilt. Becker informed Nixon that if he does not accept the pardon, President Ford will not offer it again when he is found guilty. Nixon accepted the pardon, the legal precedent that the acceptance of the pardon was an admission of guilt via the decision in Burdick v united States and on September 8, 1974, 30 days after his resignation, President Ford surprised the nation with the pardon announcement.