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Nixon’s Enemies List is the informal name of what started as a list of President of the United States Richard Nixon’s major political opponents compiled by Charles Colson, written by George T. Bell (assistant to Colson, special counsel to the White House), and sent in memorandum form to John Dean on September 9, 1971. The list was part of a campaign officially known as “Opponents List” and “Political Enemies Project.” The official purpose, as described by the White House Counsel’s Office, was to “screw” Nixon’s political enemies, by means of tax audits from the Internal Revenue Service, and by manipulating “grant availability, federal contracts, litigation, prosecution, etc.”

In a memorandum from John Dean to Lawrence Higby (August 16, 1971), Dean explained the purpose of the list succinctly:

The original 20 names in Colson’s memo (and his notes accompanying them) were as follows, although a master list of Nixon political opponents and another list, with a combined total of over 30,000 names, were developed later.

Verbatim text of Colson's original memo (with his comments)

When this list was released, Daniel Schorr read it live on television, not realizing that he was on the list until he came to his own name.

Master list of political opponents

According to Dean, Colson later compiled hundreds of names on a “master list” which changed constantly. The full list includes many notable people and publications, including Jane Fonda, Bill Cosby, Ted Kennedy, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug, Barbra Streisand, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

Second "Enemies" List

On December 20, 1973, the Congressional Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation concluded that people on the "Enemies" list had not been subjected to an unusual number of tax audits. The report revealed a second list of about 576 (with some duplicates) supporters and staffers of George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign given to Internal Revenue Commissioner Johnnie Walters by John Dean on September 11, 1972. This list includes relatively few celebrities. The Washington Post printed the entire list the next day, but the New York Times reported just a few paragraphs on page 21.


Actor Paul Newman stated that his inclusion on the list was his greatest accomplishment.

In Philip Roth's Our Gang, which was published in 1971, two years before the list was first mentioned in public, the Nixon parody character Trick E. Dixon begins to compile a rudimentary list of five political enemies. It includes Jane Fonda and the Black Panthers who were on the real-life counterpart, The Berrigans and Curt Flood.

In Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, Hunter S. Thompson expresses disappointment in not having been included on the list.

Carl Djerassi's autobiography The Pill, Pigmy Chimps, and Degas' Horse states that President Nixon awarded him the National Medal of Science when he was on the Enemies List. He learned this from an article in The San Francisco Examiner a few months later.

In the United States the term "enemies list" has come to be used in contexts not associated with Richard Nixon. For example, satirist P. J. O'Rourke's 1989 "A Call for a New McCarthyism" in The American Spectator has a hybrid blacklist and enemy's list, suggesting that, contrary to the spirits of these lists, the subjects there should be overexposed, not suppressed, "so that a surfeited public rebels in disgust." In 2009, Republicans Karl Rove and Lamar Alexander compared President Barack Obama's administration's words, actions, and attitude in opposition to groups such as Fox News Channel and the United States Chamber of Commerce to that embodied by Nixon's Enemies List, accusing the administration of building a new "enemies list."

See also


  1. Boston College Magazine “Executive session” interview with John Dean
  2. Staying Tuned, PBS News Hour, 2001-05-29. Accessed 2008-06-23.
  3. Claiborne, William. "IRS Ignored Bid to Audit 'Enemies' List," The Washington Post, December 21, 1973, page 1.
  4. Charlton, Linda. "Congressional Unit Says Dean Gave I.R.S. 2d 'Enemies' List," The New York Times, December 21, 1973, page 21.
  5. Sen. Alexander accuses Obama of building an 'enemies list', The Washington Post, 2009-10-21. Accessed 2009-10-22.

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