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The Nixon Interviews

The Nixon Interviews were a series of interviews of former Frost/Nixon, which was later made into a film of the same name; both of which featured Michael Sheen as Frost and Frank Langella as Nixon.


  • Background 1
  • Interviews 2
  • Broadcasts 3
  • Aftermath 4
  • DVD releases 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


After his resignation in 1974, Nixon spent more than two years away from public life. In 1977, he granted Frost an exclusive series of interviews. Nixon was already publishing his memoirs at the time; however, his publicist Irving "Swifty" Lazar believed that by using television Nixon could reach a mass audience. In addition, Nixon was going through a temporary cash flow problem with his lawyers, and needed to find a quick source of income. Frost's New York-based talk show had been recently cancelled, leaving him consigned to a career based around the stories covered by the proto-reality show Great Escapes.[2] As Frost had agreed to pay Nixon for the interviews,[3] the American news networks were not interested, regarding them as checkbook journalism. They refused to distribute the programme and Frost was forced to fund the project himself while seeking other investors, who eventually bought air time and syndicated the four programmes.[2]

Frost recruited James Reston, Jr. and ABC News producer Bob Zelnick to evaluate the Watergate minutiae prior to the interview. Their research allowed Frost to take control of the interview at a key moment, when he revealed details of a previously unknown conversation between Nixon and Charles Colson. Nixon's resulting admissions would support the widespread conclusion that Nixon had obstructed justice.[4] Nixon continued to deny the allegation until his death, and it was never tested in a court of law because his successor, President Gerald Ford, issued a pardon to Nixon after his resignation. Nixon's negotiated fee was $600,000 and a 20% share of any profits.[1][5]

Nixon chief of staff Jack Brennan negotiated the terms of the interview with Frost.[6] Nixon's staff saw the interview as an opportunity for the disgraced president to restore his reputation with the public, and assumed that Frost would be easily outwitted. Previously, in 1968, Frost had interviewed Nixon in a manner described by Time magazine as "so softly that in 1970 President Richard Nixon ferried Frost and Mum to the White House, where the Englishman was appointed to produce a show in celebration of the American Christmas."[7]


The 12 interviews began on March 23, 1977, with three interviews per week over four weeks. They were taped for two hours a day, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, for a total of 28 hours and 45 minutes.[3] The interviews were managed by executive producer Marvin Minoff, who was the president of Frost's David Paradine Productions,[8] and by British current affairs producer John Birt.[8][9]

Recording took place at a seaside home in Monarch Bay, California,[10] owned by Mr. Harold H. Smith and Mrs. Martha Lea Smith, who were both longtime Nixon supporters. This location was chosen instead of Nixon's San Clemente home, La Casa Pacifica, on account of interference with the television relay equipment by the Coast Guard navigational-aid transmitters near San Clemente. Frost rented the Smith home for $6,000[1] on a part-time basis.


The interviews were broadcast in the US and some other countries in 1977.[3] They were edited into four programmes, each 90 minutes long.

On Sunday evening May 1, 1977, [11]

The interviews were broadcast in four parts, with a fifth part containing material edited from the earlier parts broadcast months later:[1]
Part Broadcast Content
Part 1 4 May 1977 Watergate
Part 2 12 May 1977 Nixon and the world
Part 3 19 May 1977 War at home and abroad
Part 4 26 May 1977 Nixon, the man
Part 5 10 September 1977 additional material from parts 1-4

The premiere episode drew 45 million viewers, the largest television audience for a political interview in history — a record that still stands today.[12]

In Part 3, Frost asked Nixon about the legality of the president's actions. Nixon replied: "Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal,"[13] in the context of American national security.

Part 5 opened with Frost's blunt question, "Why didn't you burn the tapes?"[14]


A Gallup poll conducted after the interviews aired showed that 69 percent of the public thought that Nixon was still trying to cover up, 72 percent still thought he was guilty of obstruction of justice, and 75 percent thought he deserved no further role in public life.[3] Frost was expected to make $1 million from the interviews.[1]

DVD releases

There have been several releases on DVD:

  • 1 disc edition, 85 minutes
  • 2 disc edition, 377 minutes


  1. ^ a b c d e "Nixon Talks". Time Magazine. 9 May 1977. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  2. ^ a b "James Reston Jr. On The 'Frost/Nixon' Interviews".  
  3. ^ a b c d "Transcript of CNN's Larry King Live: Frost, Schieffer, Bradlee Discuss Extensive Nixon Interview". CNN. 2001-02-07. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  4. ^ White, Theodore Harold (1975). Breach of faith: the fall of Richard Nixon. New York:  
  5. ^ Frost, David; Bob Zelnick (2007). Frost/Nixon: Behind the Scenes of the Nixon Interviews.  
  6. ^ Janusonis, Michael (23 January 2009). "Is Frost/Nixon true? Let’s ask PC grad Jack Brennan — he was there". The Providence Journal. Archived from the original on 2009-02-01. Retrieved 2009-01-25. At San Clemente, Brennan served as Nixon’s chief of staff and negotiated the terms for the 1977 interviews with David Frost that became a TV sensation and are the subject of Morgan’s play and movie script. 
  7. ^ "David Can Be a Goliath". Time. May 9, 1977. Retrieved 2009-01-08. 
  8. ^ a b Barnes, Mike (2009-11-13). Nixon Interviews' producer Marvin Minoff dies"'".  
  9. ^ "Producer Marvin Minoff dies at 78 - Worked on Frost-Nixon TV interview specials".  
  10. ^ Interview with David Frost included with the 2008 DVD re-release of the original 1977 Nixon interviews
  11. ^ Mike Wallace interview of David Frost on60 Minutes1977 Youtube
  12. ^ "Profile:Sir David Frost". UK News (BBC). 2005-05-28. Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  13. ^ "Nixon's Views on Presidential Power: Excerpts from an Interview with David Frost". Retrieved 2012-08-17. 
  14. ^ Hughes, Ken. "Why Didn't Nixon Burn the Tapes?". Presidential Recordings Programme.  

External links

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