Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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1/8/11: Timothy Naftali ’83

“President Nixon was in no way connected” with a break-in at the Watergate Hotel office of the Democratic National Committee. Despite the criminals’ ties to his re-election campaign, Nixon bore no responsibility for the “third-rate burglary attempt” or the ensuing cover-up. The entire scandal stemmed largely from the “zeal” of Bob Woodward ’65 and Carl Bernstein “to create a Watergate story.”

Until recently, that was the Watergate story as told by the official Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, which “rivaled nearby Disneyland as a purveyor of fantasy,” in the words of one editorial. But when the National Archives took over the library, historian Timothy Naftali ’83 undertook some serious truth-telling.

Naftali’s overhaul of the museum’s Watergate gallery was supposed to open last July. Opposition from Nixon loyalists delayed the launch until last week. As library/museum director and curator of the Watergate exhibit, Naftali sifted through thousands of documents and the notorious White House tapes, as well as conducting more than 100 new video interviews.

The product, writes a California historian, “tells the full story of what President Ford called ‘our long national nightmare’”—with an emphasis on those who refused to participate. “Their story is now preserved,” says Naftali, whose previous work includes research on Nazi war crimes. “Students who come here will learn that you can say no when asked to say or do something that’s wrong.”

Filed under history, libraries
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