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Richard Nixon's White House Press Secretary Ron Ziegler.

Ronald Louis "Ron" Ziegler (May 12, 1939 – February 10, 2003)[1] was White House Press Secretary and Assistant to the President during United States President Richard Nixon's administration.[1]

Early life[edit | edit source]

Ziegler was born to Louis Daniel Ziegler, a production manager, and Ruby (Parsons), in Covington, Kentucky.[1] He was raised Presbyterian.[2]

Studies[edit | edit source]

He graduated from Dixie Heights High School in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky.[1] Ziegler first attended Xavier University in Cincinnati.[1] He transferred to the University of Southern California in 1958 and graduated in 1961 with a degree in government and politics.[1] While at USC, he was initiated into the Sigma Chi fraternity.

Work[edit | edit source]

He worked at Disneyland as a skipper on the popular Adventureland attraction, The Jungle Cruise.[1] He later worked as a press aide on Nixon's unsuccessful California gubernatorial campaign in 1962.[1] Subsequently Ziegler worked with H. R. Haldeman, who later served as President Nixon's White House Chief of Staff, at advertising firm J. Walter Thompson.[3]

White House appointments from 1969[edit | edit source]

In 1969, when he was just 29, Ziegler became the youngest White House Press Secretary in history. He was also the first Press Secretary to use the White House Press Briefing Room when it was completed in 1970. Historically, White House Press Secretaries were recruited from the ranks of individuals with substantial journalistic experience; among these were Stephen Early and Pierre Salinger.

He was the White House press secretary for the Nixon administration during the political scandal known as Watergate. In 1972, he dismissed the first report of the break-in at the Watergate Hotel as the discussion of a "third rate burglary," but within two years Nixon had resigned under threat of impeachment.

Some of Ziegler's public statements from this period reflect an ostensible commitment to democratic civics which in hindsight was not borne out by the facts. For example, in 1970 CIA security adviser Dan Mitrione, whose later reputation as the promoter of torture techniques became substantiated, was assassinated in Uruguay. It fell to Ziegler to give to reporters a eulogy which in hindsight seemed generously optimistic.[4]

In 1974 he became Assistant to the President.

Strong personal identification with Nixon[edit | edit source]

Particularly in the period following the resignations of such senior administration officials as Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, Ziegler became one of Nixon's closest aides and confidants, defending the President until the bitter end, urging Nixon not to resign, but rather fight impeachment in the Senate.

During the unfolding political scandal, Ziegler himself appeared at least 33 times before Congress.

Post-Watergate[edit | edit source]

Continuing closeness to Nixon[edit | edit source]

Unlike many other former aides after President Nixon's resignation in 1974, Ziegler remained very close to him. Ziegler was on the airplane that Mr. Nixon took to San Clemente as Gerald Ford was sworn into office.

On November 12, 1999, Ziegler was due to participate by telephone in a television panel discussion that included several former Nixon and Ford aides, including his successor as White House Press Secretary, Jerald terHorst, who resigned in protest at President Ford's pardon of Nixon. However, Ziegler's feed failed to hook up for the session, which went on without him. [See: Jerald terHorst#Reflections .]

Truck stop and chain drug store advocacy[edit | edit source]

In 1988, Ziegler became president and chief executive of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, living in Alexandria, Virgina.[1] He was previously known as President of the National Association of Truck Stop Operators.[5] He was described by leading truck stop advocate William Fay as "a significant factor in expanding the travel plaza and truckstop industry's presence in the nation's capital." Hay further credited Ziegler as having achieved "great strides in membership recruitment and expansion of member services." [6]

Death[edit | edit source]

He moved to Coronado Shores (Coronado, California) where he died of a heart attack at the age of 63.[1]

In popular culture[edit | edit source]

Ziegler appears in the 1976 film All the President's Men as himself in archival news footage.

Ziegler is portrayed in the 1995 Oliver Stone film Nixon by David Paymer.

Notable quotes[edit | edit source]

  • "Certain elements may try to stretch the Watergate burglary beyond what it is." –1972, referring to Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.
  • "This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative." –April 17, 1973, retracting previous statements that had been revealed to be false.
  • "I would apologize to the Post, and I would apologize to Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein." He continued, "We would all have to say that mistakes were made in terms of comments. I was overenthusiastic in my comments about the Post, particularly if you look at them in the context of developments that have taken place." May 1, 1973; the previous day, White House counsel John Dean and Nixon aides John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman had resigned, as the Watergate scandal progressed.[7]
  • "If my answers sound confusing, I think they are confusing because the questions are confusing and the situation is confusing."
  • "Thank goodness, I was one of the few members of the Nixon White House staff who was never indicted and I was not part of the cover-up." — 1995, Larry King Live, alluding to the 11 convictions and numerous indictments in the scandal. [6]
  • "I was the only one on that plane to San Clemente with Nixon when power changed hands. I was there with Nixon in exile. I will publish a good book someday." –1981.
  • "I'm proud of what I did as press secretary, I don't feel the need to apologize; there are some things, however, I would have done differently" –1981. [7]
  • "The president is aware of what is going on in Southeast Asia. That is not to say that there is anything going on in Southeast Asia." –1971, answering a question if the allied troops were preparing to invade Laos.[8]
  • "Devoted service to the cause of peaceful progress in an orderly world (which) will remain as an example for free men everywhere" [9] - 1970, in reference to the career of CIA security adviser Dan Mitrione, killed in Uruguay, whose promotion of torture later became substantiated.

Notes[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Political offices
Preceded by
George Christian
White House Press Secretary
1969–1974
Succeeded by
Jerald terHorst

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