This week, leaders in the House and Senate condemned the Internal Revenue Service for the current controversy about its targeting of conservative groups (as you saw on Meet the Press this weekend). Over thirty years ago, the GOP Leader in Congress came on Meet the Press for a different purpose: to defend the President against harsh treatment by the IRS. In April of 1974, House Republican leader Rep. John Rhodes, of Arizona, appeared on Meet the Press to defend President Nixon, who was under fire for having paid very little in taxes during his first two years as President, and for taking a huge deduction from the donation of his vice presidential papers to the national archives – a process that was completed after a law banning such deductions was put in place. When the accusations came to light in 1973, Nixon released his tax returns and requested that the Congressional Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation examine them (read his letter accompanying the release here). Days before Rhodes’ appearance on Meet the Press, the Joint Committee had released a detailed report concluding that Nixon owed over $400,000 in back taxes. The report was made public, over the complaints of the White House, and the President found himself facing another scandal, in the midst of the ongoing Watergate case. On Meet the Press, Rhodes accused the Committee and the IRS of not giving the President a chance to present his case. Though Nixon was largely thought to be cozy with the IRS, Rhodes argued that the organization had been “certainly as harsh as anybody could expect them to be on this President.”
Rhodes at the time was one of Nixon’s strongest supporters, and on Meet the Press, he vehemently denied that there were enough votes in his caucus to impeach the President. Later that summer, however, the congressman would play a huge part in Nixon’s resignation. After more reports and tape recordings on the Watergate scandal came out, Rhodes publicly called for Nixon to resign and resisted efforts by the President’s supporters to slow the investigation. On August 7th 1974, exactly four months after his Meet the Press appearance, Rhodes and two other Republicans met the President to inform him that he faced certain impeachment. Nixon resigned the next day. (Read about the rest of James Rhodes’ career in his New York Times obituary). You can watch Rep. John Rhodes defending President Nixon against the IRS in the 1974 Meet the Press clip below.