New First Lady Patricia Nixon with her husband, President Richard M. Nixon at his Inauguration. (Henry Groskinsky/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

< Go to Homepage

Richard Nixon Allegedly Beat “The Hell” Out of His Wife. Why Haven’t the Claims Been Investigated?

“They had these terrible, raging fights, at high decibel,” former National Security Council member Roger Morris said.

Former President Richard Nixon has been accused of abusing his wife by several people close to him over the last five decades, and a new LongReads article delves into why those allegations haven’t been more closely investigated by the journalists and historians who covered his presidency. For one, writer Elon Green reports, the allegations weren’t taken as seriously fifty years ago as they are today. For another, reporting on abuse is “inherently difficult” because it can often lack eyewitnesses or hospital records.

Still, Green writes, the evidence is daunting and long.

“Alexander Butterfield, the Nixon aide who revealed the president’s secret taping apparatus, told [journalist Bob] Woodward not long ago that the first lady was ‘borderline abused,’” Elon Green writes. Butterfield told Woodward that the president would ignore First Lady Pat Nixon when they were together. “I wanted to shake him. ‘Answer her, goddamn it; she’s your wife!’” Butterfield reportedly said.

Then come the more serious allegations — among them that “Nixon ‘kicked the hell’ out of Pat in 1962,” Green writes. The list continues: “After telling America that the country would not have him to ‘kick around anymore,’ the former vice president “beat the hell” out of her. That, in fact, she had been so injured “she could not go out the next day.” That, on an unspecified occasion, one aide or perhaps more ‘had to run in and pull [Nixon] off Pat,’ who sustained bruises on her face.”

Roger Morris, a former member of the National Security Council in 1970, told Green that  the love between Pat and her husband was “depleted and exhausted.”

“They had these terrible, raging fights, at high decibel,” Morris told Green, adding that the relationship was “violent.” As for how these allegations should be reviewed decades after the fact, Morris had this to say:

“We’re living in a very different era now, and I do think historical figures ought to be judged whole, as it were, against the setting of their times, but also against the setting of posterity.”

Read the full story at LongReads