Fred Malek: He Counted

March 25, 2019 4:22 p.m.

The Nixon Foundation has announced the death of Fred Malek, former personnel director in the Nixon White House.

Although Malek lived a long life active in Republican politics, he will always be remembered as the man who counted Jews in the government for Richard Nixon. This was a byproduct of Nixon becoming angered in 1971 over a Bureau of Labor Statistics report. Nixon as was his wont, Nixon blamed Jews for the problem and wanted to know how many worked for the BLS.

Timothy Noah is the major chronicler of this bizarre and sordid episode and his account, in Slate, is well worth reading.

Some excerpts. Here is a conversation between Nixon and his aide Bob Haldeman:

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Nixon: Now, point: [Fred] Malek is not Jewish.Haldeman: No.Nixon: All right, I want a look at any sensitive areas around where Jews are involved, Bob. See, the Jews are all through the government, and we have got to get in those areas. We’ve got to get a man in charge who is not Jewish to control the Jewish … do you understand?Haldeman: I sure do.Nixon: The government is full of Jews. Second, most Jews are disloyal. You know what I mean? You have a [White House Counsel Leonard] Garment and a [National Security Adviser Henry] Kissinger and, frankly, a [White House speechwriter William] Safire, and, by God, they’re exceptions. But Bob, generally speaking, you can’t trust the bastards. They turn on you. Am I wrong or right?Haldeman: Their whole orientation is against you. In this administration, anyway. And they are smart. They have the ability to do what they want to do—which—is to hurt us.

By Noah’s account, Malek performed his task with enthusiasm:

Malek answers in a memo the following day. Out of 50 names on the organization chart, Malek has run down the party affiliations of 35. Twenty-five are Democrats, one is a Republican, and nine are either independents, not registered, or of unknown party affiliation. “In addition,” Malek writes (someone—presumably either Haldeman or Nixon himself—has underlined this sentence), “13 out of the 35 fit the other demographic criterion that was discussed.” Scribbled beneath this (I’m guessing by Haldeman) are the words, “Most of these are at the top.” (Malek’s method of identifying who was Jewish and who wasn’t was to scrutinize surnames, rendering his estimate as unreliable as it was abhorrent.)

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