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TN Politics: The Tennessee Senator Who Shed His Doubts About a President's Wrongdoing


In the 1973, Sen. Howard Baker Jr., a Tennessee Republican, became vice chair of the Senate Select committee to investigate President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal that would bring down his otherwise popular presidency.

Political analyst Otis Sanford writes about how Baker, initially skeptical of the accusations, posed what has now become a famous question: "What did the president know and when did he know it?"

Were Nixon's political opponents vilifying him for actions he didn't know about, or were these men effectively the president's henchmen?

The 50th Anniversary of the Watergate Burglary — in which Nixon's operatives were caught breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee — comes as lawmakers in Washington examine whether Donald Trump's actions in the wake of the 2020 election were precipitated by misguided conspiracy theories and bad political advice, or if his campaign to malign election results and unleash a violent mob on the nation's capitol was an earnest coup attempt.

Sanford says neither Tennessee Senators Marsha Blackburn nor Bill Hagerty have shown any of Howard Baker's introspection on the insurrection issue. Blackburn recently called Trump, whose inspirational words led to supporters erecting a gallows at the capitol and threatening to hang his "wimp" Vice President Mike Pence, the "greatest president in history."

Reporting from the gates of Graceland to the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, Christopher's favorite haunt is the intersection of history and cultural change. He is WKNO's News Director and Senior Producer at the University of Memphis' Institute for Public Service Reporting. Join his conversations about the Memphis arts scene on the WKNO Culture Desk Facebook page.