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Nixon dug deep for dirt on Ted Kennedy

President Richard Nixon considered Ted Kennedy such a threat that he tried to catch Kennedy cheating on his wife, even ordering aides to recruit Secret Service agents to spill dirt on the senator's behavior.

world Updated: Aug 29, 2009 01:10 IST

President Richard Nixon considered Ted Kennedy such a threat that he tried to catch Kennedy cheating on his wife, even ordering aides to recruit Secret Service agents to spill dirt on the senator's behavior.

“Do you have anybody in the Secret Service that you can get to?" Nixon asked his aide John Ehrlichman in a stark series of Oval Office conversations about Kennedy before the 1972 election. "Yeah, yeah," Ehrlichman replied.

“Plant one,” Nixon said. “Plant two guys on him. This could be very useful.”

Nixon made clear that the Secret Service protection afforded Kennedy before the 1972 election would be rescinded after. Then, said the president, “If he gets shot, it's too damn bad.”

Tape recordings from the Nixon White House betray a preoccupation with the Kennedy mystique and how that might be used against the Republican president by the last surviving brother, who died Tuesday at age 77.

Nixon wanted a sharp and private eye kept on Ted Kennedy. Does he do anything?" Nixon asked in a September 1971 meeting. "No, no, he's very clean," Ehrlichman replied. "He was in Hawaii on his own. He was staying in some guy's villa. He was just as nice as could be the whole time."

“Nixon never forgot his humiliating defeat in the 1960 presidential election to John F Kennedy," said Luke A. Nichter, a leading authority on the Nixon White House recordings.