Exclusive: Haldeman, Son of Watergate, Remembers His Father and President Nixon

By | March 16, 2015

H.R. “Bob” Haldeman bears some responsibility for the Watergate scandal but he was innocent of the criminal charges brought against him, says the son of President Richard Nixon’s former chief of staff.

In an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with Wells Media Group, Hank Haldeman, oldest son of H.R. Haldeman, discusses his father, Nixon, Watergate, politics, prison, relationships, his own career, the family name and more.

In the interview, Haldeman reveals what it was like talking with his father about Watergate as the scandal unfolded on the front pages of The Washington Post. He describes his father’s relationship with President Nixon. He also shares his impressions of Judge John Sirica and his father’s trial along with memories of visiting his father in prison.

The full interview, “The Hank Haldeman Interview: A Son of Watergate Remembers His Father,” is scheduled to air on InsuranceJournal.com on Thursday March 19 at 2 pm ET/11 am PT.

Hank Haldeman is executive vice president and director with The Sullivan Group in Los Angeles. He is also current president of the National Association of Professional Surplus Lines Office (NAPSLO).

In an excerpt (below) released before the broadcast, Haldeman shares his own conclusions about his father’s responsibility for Watergate.

“Things that shouldn’t have gone on did go on,” he says. “Certainly, ultimate responsibility for that comes back to whoever set the tone for the administration. More than anybody that comes back to Dad. Does he have responsibility? Absolutely. But that’s not the same thing as criminal culpability or the cause.”

The Watergate scandal resulted in Nixon’s resignation in his second term in 1974. Haldeman was convicted of perjury and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He was sentenced to Lompoc prison in California for 18 months.

His observations, anecdotes and memories from the interview cover a number of areas:

  • Father’s Responsibility: Why he believes his father was innocent of the criminal charges brought against him as a result of the Watergate scandal and whom he believes was most to blame.
  • Life in the Washington Inner Circle: Following politics like sports, visiting Camp David, a longhaired youth for Nixon, the first Earth Day, a UCLA peace march and a disbelieving professor.
  • The Nixon-Haldeman Relationship: Nixon and Haldeman maintained a professional relationship for all the years they worked together. Were they close friends outside of work?
  • Watergate Hearings and Trial: Hank watched the hearings on television like most Americans. He also visited court during his father’s trial, at which Judge John Sirica presided. He reveals his negative impression of Sirica.
  • Life Before and After Watergate and Nixon: Before H.R. Haldeman teamed with Richard Nixon, he was a Madison Ave. ad executive. Then he was in charge of the giant Executive Branch bureaucracy. After he got out of prison, he went into real estate and backed young entrepreneurs, including his son, in business ventures. Was he as happy as he had been in politics?
  • Politics and Family Name: How Hank felt about Nixon-era politics and feels about politics now. Also whether the family name has been a burden.
H.R. "Bob" Haldeman March, 1974 (AP Photo/Jeff Robbins)
H.R. “Bob” Haldeman
March, 1974
(AP Photo/Jeff Robbins)

H.R. Haldeman died in 1993. His son remembers him as a man of steady faith and character:

“I think he never wavered in the belief that he had never committed the acts for which he was tried and convicted. His religion was a very, very important part of his life. He stuck with that throughout. That gave him a great deal of strength.

“He was very much unchanged, the same person from the advertising days before he was in the White House, through the White House, and afterwards. Everybody evolves with the experiences that you go through. But his character remained very, very steady and the same.”

The interview is sponsored by the new Learning Management System (LMS) of the Insurance Journal Academy of Insurance.

Wells Media Group serves the property/casualty insurance industry. The company is publisher of Insurance Journal, Carrier Management, Claims Journal and MyNewMarkets. It also offers professional education through the Insurance Journal Academy of Insurance.

The Hank Haldeman interview will air in its entirety on Thursday, March 19 at 2 pm ET/11 am PT. Visit insurancejournal.com on March 19 for the broadcast and live discussion.

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