President Ford Pardons Nixon
On September 8, 1974, President Gerald Ford issued Proclamation 4311, which gave disgraced former-President Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he might have committed against the United States while President.
In a televised broadcast to the nation, Ford explained that he felt the pardon was in the best interests of the country, and that the Nixon family’s situation “is a tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.”
The pardon was a political disaster for Ford, with only 38 percent supporting it and ultimately contributed to his defeat in 1976. By 1986, however, fifty-four percent of Americans believed it to be the right thing to do.
After Ford left the White House in 1977, the former President privately justified his pardon of Nixon by carrying in his wallet a portion of the text of Burdick v. United States, a 1915 U.S. Supreme Court decision which stated that a pardon indicated a presumption of guilt, and that acceptance of a pardon was tantamount to a confession of that guilt.
In 2001, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award to Ford for his pardon of Nixon. In presenting the award to Ford, Senator Ted Kennedy said that he had initially been opposed to the pardon of Nixon, but later stated that history had proved Ford to have made the correct decision.