By Hunter Frint

With tweets becoming the most common way for the president to make a statement today, people are able to witness some of Donald Trump’s shocking reactions to frustrations, such as information leaks, firsthand.


And while Donald Trump’s reactions can be fiery, uncouth responses to information leaks is nothing new. Former president Richard Nixon was known for his hot-headed responses as well. But without an outlet like twitter, his reactions weren’t as readily available to the public until the Nixon Library released over 340 hours of taped conversation, also known as The Nixon White House Tapes

The Nixon administration dealt with several historical leaks, including the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. When the stories on the Pentagon Papers leak first broke — the first big leak of Nixon’s presidency — the president was caught off guard.

This fairly shocking conversation took place between Nixon and his Secretary of State, Alexander M. Haig Jr. on June 13, 1971, the day that the New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers.

Nixon: Nothing else of interest in the world?

Haig: Yes sir. Very significant. This goddamn New York Times expose of the most highly classified documents of the war.

Nixon: Oh that! I see. I didn’t read the story. Do you mean that was leaked out of the Pentagon?

Listed here are some of Nixon’s most interesting responses to those leaks. 

  1. “Now, I would just start at the top and fire some people. I mean, whatever department it came out of, I’d fire the top guy.”

Information leak: The Pentagon Papers

Information originally published by: The New York Times

This was Nixon’s response to the release of the Pentagon Papers. It obviously came after the initial conversation between he and Haig where he was unaware of the importance of the leak.

Source: The Nixon Tapes — edited and annotated by Douglas Brinkley and Luke A. Nichter


  1. “We’ve got to get this son of a bitch.”


Information leak: The Pentagon Papers

Information originally published by: The New York Times

Nixon used this term of endearment in a conversation with Attorney General John Mitchell in regards to former U.S. military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, arrested for leaking the papers that contained a myriad of information regarding the Vietnam War. 

Source: The Miller Center


  1. “Neil Sheehan is a vicious antiwar type. Sure, we’re all against it, but goddamn. And if they’re going to go to this length, we’re going to fight with everything we’ve got. And I—I’m just—I just—we’ll just take some chances.”

Information leak: The Pentagon Papers

Information originally published by: The New York Times

Nixon said this to H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, his White House Chief of Staff at the time. Sheehan is the New York Times reporter who received the Pentagon Papers from Ellsberg. Nixon referred to Sheehan as a radical and vowed to go after the New York Times.

Source: The Miller Center


Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein — Photo courtesy Tullio Saba/ Flickr


  1. “The story they get out through leaks, charges, and so forth, and innuendos, will be a hell of a lot worse than the story they’re going to get out by just letting it out there.”

Information leak: Watergate

Information originally published by: The Washington Post

This quote is found in recorded conversations about Watergate after the initial publication exposing the Watergate scandal by journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Here, Nixon is speaking to Haldeman, Mitchell, John Dean, the White House Counsel at the time, and John Ehrlichman, Domestic Affairs Counsel, on March 22, 1973 about how to attempt to handle the story that was originally leaked.  

Source: The Nixon Library


  1. “What in the world do responsible publishers think to put out truckloads of secret documents?”

Information leak: The Pentagon Papers

Information originally published by: The New York Times

Nixon also said this in the same conversation with Haig when he first heard about the New York Times’ release of the Pentagon Papers. The 37th president didn’t think highly of the press, and at one point, referred to them as “the enemy.”

Source: Retro Report – Times Video (1:47)


You can read transcriptions of the Nixon tapes and listen to other recordings on the Miller Center’s website.