A telephone call between former US presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, in which Reagan referred to United Nations (UN) delegates from African countries as “monkeys”, who he added were “still uncomfortable wearing shoes”, has been released by the US National Archives.
In the call, Reagan complains about a UN sitting after a vote did not go his way: “Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did…”
Nixon then says “Yeah,” with Reagan continuing: “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries … Damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!”
The recording was previously released, but with the racist parts removed in a bid to protect Reagan’s privacy. Following his death in 2004, this concern fell away, and the full call was finally released this year after former Nixon Presidential Library director Tim Naftali called for Nixon’s taped conversations involving Reagan to be reviewed.
The call, the contents of which were first published by The Atlantic, took place in October 1971, following the UN voting to recognise the People’s Republic of China, rather than Taiwan – a development which was not what the US wanted, with Reagan in particular a vocal supporter of Taiwanese interests.
Reagan was lashing out at those countries who had not sided with the US in the vote, which included several African countries. The Tanzanian delegation reportedly started dancing in the General Assembly following the announcement that the People’s Republic of China would be recognised.
The release of the full tapes comes as racism by US presidents occupies the spotlight, due to allegations of racism levelled at current president Donald Trump.
A string of verbal attacks on African-Americans are behind these allegations.
Trump has laid repeatedly into four non-white Democratic congresswomen, a respected African-American Democratic lawmaker from Baltimore, the city of Baltimore itself (where African-Americans constitute the majority), as well as veteran black civil rights activist Al Sharpton.
The US president told reporters at the White House: “I am the least racist person anywhere in the world.”
But he followed this by claiming that Sharpton was a racist and he continued to lash out at Baltimore, suggesting on Tuesday that violent crime there was worse than in Honduras, a country with one of the world’s highest homicide rates outside a war zone.
“Baltimore happens to be about the worst case,” Trump said in an interview with The Washington Post.
“If you look at it statistically, it’s like, the number of shootings, the number of crimes, the number of everything — this morning I heard a statistic, Baltimore is worse than Honduras, okay?”
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Background reporting AFP)