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Nixon library revises Watergate

For years, Richard Nixon's presidential library was accused of committing another Watergate cover-up. But now, archivists say, the stonewalling is over.

The California library has opened an expanded new exhibit that scholars say provides a more balanced and accurate account of the scandal that brought down a president.

"The public deserves non-partisan, objective presidential libraries," said library director Tim Naftali, who described the original display as "inaccurate and whitewashed".

Among other things, the old exhibit portrayed Nixon's epic downfall as a "coup" by his enemies and suggested the press behaved unethically in pursuing him.

The 500,000-dollar (£300,000) makeover was undertaken by the National Archives after it took control of the library in 2007 from the private organisation of Nixon loyalists that had overseen the place since its opening in 1990.

The new display features sections called Abuse of Power, The Cover-Up and Dirty Tricks, complemented by taped interviews and text. In one interview, Nixon aide Alexander Haig, who died last year, says the president once asked him to burn White House tapes. "I said no," Mr Haig recalls.

Some material has never before been shown publicly, and it includes interviews with such figures as Watergate burglar Gordon Liddy and Nixon aide Charles Colson, who went to prison for crimes that came to light as the scandal unfolded.

The scandal began with a burglary at Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel complex in Washington, and eventually exposed widespread wrongdoing in the Nixon White House, including abuse of government agencies for political purposes. Nixon resigned on August 8 1974.

Dismantled several years ago, the library's original Watergate exhibit was the largest of any at the site at the time, consisting of documents, text and photographs along a long, darkened hallway. But academics ridiculed it.

When the site opened, Nixon biographer Stephen Ambrose said the commentary on one heavily-edited Watergate tape "would almost convince a listener that Nixon never ordered a cover-up or a payment of hush money".

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