The Atlantic has released newly obtained audio of an October 1971 conversation between Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon where the former used racist language to describe African delegates at the United Nations.
Reagan, who was governor of California at the time of their conversation, was upset that members of the Tanzanian delegation started to dance in the General Assembly after the U.N. voted to oust Taiwan and admit the People’s Republic of China as “the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations.”
“Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did,” Reagan said. “Yeah,” Nixon interjected. Reagan forged ahead with his racism: “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!” Nixon responded with laughter.
As an avid supporter of Taiwan, Reagan contacted then-President of the United States Nixon to urge him to withdraw from the U.N. over the vote, and in the midst of their conversation, his racist remarks came out.
Nixon’s retelling of his conversation with Secretary of State William Rogers shortly afterwards showed his inability to lessen the sting of Reagan’s words. “As he said, he saw these, uh, these cannibals on television last night, and he says, ‘Christ, they weren’t even wearing shoes, and here the United States is going to submit its fate to that,’ and so forth and so on,” he recalls.