Pardoning Nixon

Pardoning Nixon

In an attempt to move the country forward after the Watergate scandal, President Gerald R. Ford chose to pardon former President Richard Nixon.


6 - 12


Social Studies, U.S. History

President Richard Nixon named Gerald Ford his vice president in 1973 after the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew. A year later, Nixon himself resigned the presidency and Gerald Ford became the 38th President of the United States. Nixon had resigned as increasing evidence connected him to a burglary at Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. The enormous scandal quickly took the name of the building in which the crime took place, the Watergate. Ford wanted the country to move past the turmoil of the Watergate scandal and focus instead on important issues facing the nation, such as unemployment, inflation, and conflict. In an attempt to move the country forward, Ford decided to grant Nixon a full pardon—absolving the former president of any crimes associated with his time in the Oval Office. Ford faced the reality that his controversial decision would elicit negative public and political responses and likely cost him votes in the 1976 presidential election. In response to suspicions that the pardon was part of a corrupt deal, Ford volunteered to testify before Congress. In his testimony, Ford stated, “I want to assure you, the members of the sub-committee, the members of Congress, and the American people, there was no deal, period, under no circumstances.” He also explained, “I was absolutely convinced then, as I am now, that if we had had this series—an indictment, a trial, conviction and anything else that transpired after that—that the attention of the president, the Congress, and the American people would have been diverted from the problems that we have to solve.” 

Fast Fact

  • Accepting a presidential pardon is, by law, an admission of guilt.

Fast Fact

  • Ford studied law at Yale University and relied heavily on his training and the advice of legal counsel to make the decision to pardon Nixon.

Fast Fact

  • Throughout the rest of his life, Ford maintained that the pardon was the right decision.
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Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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Related Resources

Ford Foundation
National Geographic Channel