Newly-restored tapes dating from the Nixon White House and published online today by Vanity Fair reveal that even though he believed homosexuality was a "problem," anti-gay Republican President Richard M. Nixon understood that gay people are "born that way" -- more than forty years ago. (To put that in perspective, at that time homosexuality was still viewed as a mental disorder.)
Here's Vanity Fair's transcription of the relevant quote, from an April 28, 1971 conversation between Nixon, national security adviser Henry Kissinger, and Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman:
Let me say something before we get off the gay thing. I don't want my views misunderstood. I am the most tolerant person on that of anybody in this shop. They have a problem. They're born that way. You know that. That's all. I think they are. Anyway, my point is, though, when I say they're born that way, the tendency is there. [But] my point is that Boy Scout leaders, YMCA leaders, and others bring them in that direction, and teachers. And if you look over the history of societies, you will find, of course, that some of the highly intelligent people . . . Oscar Wilde, Aristotle, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, were all homosexuals. Nero, of course, was, in a public way, in with a boy in Rome.
Nixon quickly adds a caveat, though (just so you don't think he's some kind of limp-wristed queer sympathizer or anything):
"By God, I am not going to have a situation where we pass along a law indicating, 'Well, now, kids, just go out and be gay.' They can do it. Just leave them alone. That's a lifestyle [sic] I don't want to touch..."
Listen, after the break.