Stephen Beekman Bull, 34, is one of three people, indicates former Watergate prosecutor Leon Jaworski, who could have erased the 18½ minutes of a key White House tape recording. The others are former President Nixon and his secretary Rose Mary Woods. Bull is a ninth-generation New Yorker who went from Canada Dry executive to Nixon’s special assistant. A divorced father of two girls, 12 and 11, Bull was married in August to Jeanne Quinlan, a staff aide to both Nixon and President Ford. He is currently a research and public relations man for the Commission for Review of the National Policy toward Gambling, a congressionally financed study group which pays him $31,000 a year. He shares his thoughts on Watergate, Nixon and Jaworski (author of the new book The Right and the Power,) with Clare Crawford of PEOPLE.
What is your reaction to the Jaworski charge?
I’m disappointed in Jaworski, who I thought had certain obligations and a certain level of ethical behavior. He apparently abandoned these in favor of selling a book.
Are you saying he’s wrong?
It’s a rather absurd and unconscionable thing for a man who’s a former prosecutor, who admittedly said that he had insufficient evidence to indict in a court of law—even insufficient evidence to determine that a crime had been committed. He can’t do it in a court of law, so he does it in a court of public opinion, and indicts all three people. It’s a new form of McCarthyism—Jaworski-ism. Individuals are guilty until they prove their innocence.
You mean there wasn’t an erasure?
I really don’t believe that there was a deliberate erasure. It seems illogical that someone would erase a tape in such a sloppy manner.
How many others had access to the tapes?
There were 30 or 40 people.
How come Jaworski narrowed it to three?
You got me.
Why were the tapes not burned?
I don’t know. I heard Jaworski say he had information that President Nixon planned to sell them for great personal profit. I don’t know how the hell he came up with that one. It seems to me that at the time President Nixon could have destroyed them, it would have looked as if he was hiding something.
Will you sue Jaworski for false accusation?
No. It’s counterproductive for the whole country. It’s unhealthy to continue to beat a dead horse.
What’s your own appraisal of Nixon’s Presidency?
I think his accomplishments in the area of foreign policy have got to be recognized at some point. Obviously I have a personal affection for him. I was around him for six years.
Did the public really understand Nixon?
One of the things that contributed to the attitude toward him and perhaps the lack of compassion was that no one realized that inside that institutional being was a human being. It was one of the greatest failures of the White House staff. The guy was packaged and sold like a Ford automobile. It was a marketing thing.
What impressed you most about President Nixon?
He viewed people as people first. Once he had to make a presentation to handicapped workers out in the Rose Garden and there was a person with no arms or legs, just hooks. The President went up to the guy, grabbed him by the hook and shook it. The first thing that occurred to me was: What a terrible, thoughtless thing to do. But that was the proper handshake and the President could accept it for what it was, and the man was pleased. It shows the compassion and understanding of people that the President had.
Did you get emotional when Nixon left the Presidency?
I was good friends with the crew of Air Force One. There was this one guy who always filled my coffee cup with bourbon, because at first there was no drinking on Air Force One. After that final flight to California everyone was leaving. I went over to him, and I wanted to say, ‘Will you thank all the guys for me, and I wish you well.’ That’s when I broke down. Really, it was strange. He was the guy that kept me in bourbon for four years.
Nixon left the White House Aug. 9, 1974, and you stayed with him through his second hospitalization in November. What was that period like?
It was grim. I think the first hospitalization was in September, and it was during the second that he really got sick. I mean, clinically he was dead, which I guess people don’t realize. It shocked the hell out of us. Alarms went off and people ran in and he went through what you call a cardiovascular failure.
How will you remember your years with Nixon?
I had a fascinating experience at the White House. I had a lot of fun. I wouldn’t trade those years, not even the two bad years. I wish it hadn’t turned out that way, but I can’t change history. And if it had to happen, I’m glad I was there, and a part of it.