Richard M. Nixon


What was the Saturday Night Massacre?

The Saturday Night Massacre was the October 20, 1973, controversy involving President Nixon, the Justice Department, and the Special Prosecutor. Nixon had hired Archibald Cox to serve as the special prosecutor to look into Watergate. Cox asked Nixon for audio tapes recorded in the Oval Office and other key rooms in the White House. Nixon refused, but said he would turn over edited transcripts. When Cox balked, Nixon wanted him fired.

Nixon ordered U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox, but Richardson refused and resigned. Nixon then ordered Assistant U.S. Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox, but he also refused and had resigned earlier. Ultimately, Solicitor General Robert Bork fired Cox. Richardson and Ruckelshaus held a press conference, decrying the actions. Richardson declared: “At stake, in the final analysis, is the very integrity of the government processes I came to the Department of Justice to help restore.”


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