Editors Note: “Today in History” articles are meant to inform readers of important moments from our history that should not be forgotten, but remembered.
On Sept. 8, 1974, President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon for any crimes under the Watergate scandal that he may have committed while in office.
Ford’s pardon of Nixon is regarded as one of the most controversial presidential pardons in American history. Ford explained that the pardon was necessary to end the national divide across the United States.
The Watergate scandal ignited after it was discovered that President Nixon and his aides were involved in illegal activities surrounding his re-election campaign while attempting to coverup evidence.
Nixon, who was expected to be impeached and removed from office, became the first U.S. president to resign from office on August 9, 1974. Then-Vice President Gerald Ford was promptly sworn in as the 38th President of the United States.
One month after being sworn in, Gerald Ford granted Richard Nixon a “full, free and absolute pardon” for any crimes he committed while in office.
Ford’s pardon of Nixon was heavily criticized at the time. Many experts noted that it was a key component of Ford’s narrow defeat to Jimmy Carter during the 1976 presidential election.
Despite facing harsh political consequences, Gerald Ford was presented the 2001 Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for placing his love of country over his own political future, and for moving the United States past the Watergate scandal.