In a concession to critics, former President Richard M. Nixon on Monday scrapped plans to restrict access to his presidential library and pledged to admit researchers and scholars regardless of their viewpoints.
Library officials in Orange County had said that researchers would be screened based on the slant and content of their intended work.
Library director Hugh Hewitt had said that journalist Bob Woodward, for example, would not be permitted to study at the library because he "is not a responsible journalist." Woodward and Carl Bernstein teamed as Washington Post reporters to write Pulitzer Prize-winning stories that revealed the Watergate scandal, which forced Nixon to resign in 1974.
The Times reported Sunday on skepticism among scholars who said it appeared that Nixon was trying to exert control over his image and suppress any further revelations about him.
But in a statement Monday, Nixon's personal assistant, John Taylor, said that those wishing to use the library will be admitted "without regard to their opinions on any subject," as long as they are "qualified and responsible."
When asked if that included Woodward, Taylor said: "There is not a single person the former President has in mind as someone whom he would exclude from studying in the institution if they have the mind to do so."
After consulting with Hewitt late Monday, Taylor said that library officials had been working long hours to complete the museum portion of the facility, which is set to open July 20, and "had not had the opportunity to give much thought" to policy questions on the library, which will open in the fall of 1991.
The Times article "gave the former President and (the private foundation that runs the library) the opportunity to consider those things," and then they adopted revised policies, Taylor said.
Addressing another source of scholarly criticism, Taylor said the library will now be available for functions by community groups of any kind, including Democrats, "subject to the availability of space and time."
"I don't anticipate that a lot of Democratic organizations will want to host events there, but former President Nixon sees no reason why they should be excluded from doing so," Taylor said.
Hewitt had said that the library would be used for Republican fund-raisers in the evenings, but that similar functions by Democrats would be prohibited.
The new library admittance policy, issued in a press release Monday, "is not artfully worded to rationalize excluding certain people," Taylor said. "It is not designed to give us the flexibility to exclude someone later on."
He also said that the library would contain the most important papers from Nixon's presidency, but not every single document from the complete set of originals currently housed, by law, in a government archive in Virginia.
Responding to concerns by scholars that the Nixon Library would not contain complete records of the Nixon Administration, Taylor said copies of all 1.5 million documents in the Nixon White House's "special files"--the more sensitive, personal papers, including many that pertain to Watergate--will be housed in Yorba Linda.
Every document open to public view at the government archive in Virginia will also be available at the Nixon Library, he said. Releases of still-secret papers will be made as the National Archives gives its permission, Taylor said.
Nixon does not intend to duplicate anything from the more than 38 million papers from the White House "central files," he said. Large portions contain such things as Christmas cards and other items that are of little consequence, and duplicating them would be too expensive, Taylor said.
Other parts of the central files contain things of interest, such as documents on budgetary and environmental policy, but the library wants to keep entire files intact and in context, so it will not pick and choose between parts of the central files, Taylor said. Instead, it will refer interested parties to Virginia to view the central files, he said.