President Trump’s sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday was nearly unprecedented. Some observers compared the dismissal to Richard Nixon’s infamous “Saturday Night Massacre,” in which Nixon had Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox fired. But the Richard Nixon Presidential Library doesn’t appreciate the comparison.
On Tuesday, after the news of Comey’s firing broke, the Nixon Library tweeted from its official account “FUN FACT: President Nixon never fired the Director of the FBI #FBIDirector #notNixonian.”
Cox was fired on Oct. 20, 1973, after the special prosecutor attempted to subpoena the president, seeking tapes of conversations recorded in the Oval Office. Nixon refused, and asked Atty. Gen. Elliot Richardson to fire Cox.
Richardson declined to fire Cox, and resigned. William Ruckelshaus, the deputy attorney general, also refused to dismiss Cox, and also resigned. Cox was then fired by Robert Bork, the solicitor general at the time.
The Nixon Library, using the hashtag #SaturdayNightMassacre, reiterated on Twitter that Richardson and Ruckelshaus resigned, and were not fired.
Presidential libraries don’t often get involved in contemporary politics. Many Twitter users were delighted by the library’s tweet, including writer and editor Ted Genoways and Washington Post opinion writer Jonathan Capehart.
At the New Yorker, Jeffrey Frank tried to explain how Comey’s firing both is and isn’t like the Saturday Night Massacre. Frank quoted John Dean, Nixon’s White House counsel and a witness for the prosecution in the Watergate hearings, as saying, “If they think they can influence the Russian investigation by removing Comey, they are naïve. I learned from my own experience that you can’t put in the fix by removing somebody.”