An unearthed 1971 audio recording from the US National Archives reveals how the then-California Governor Ronald Reagan called African delegates to the United Nations “monkeys” during a phone call with US President Richard Nixon.
“To see those monkeys from those African countries, damn them,” Reagan is heard saying, prompting Nixon’s laughter. “They are still uncomfortable wearing shoes.”
The conversation followed the United Nations’ decision to recognise China instead of US ally Taiwan. Reagan was venting his frustration at the delegates who opposed the US, said The Atlantic magazine who was the first to publish the dialogue this week.
The article’s author Tim Naftali, a history professor at New York University and former director of the Nixon Presidential Library, told the Washington Post that the audio was “worse than I expected”. “It was the combination of the slur by Reagan and then Nixon’s repeating it, not once but twice in later conversations.”
After Reagan's death in 2004, Naftali was successful in getting the National Archives to release the full recording.
Reagan was California governor from 1967 to 1975 and US president from 1981 to 1989. While Nixon left office in 1974 following near impeachment for the Watergate Scandal, making him the only US president to resign from his post.