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Counting The Number Of Jews In The Labor Bureau

March 30, 2019

I do love a well-written and informative obituary.  The New York Times, almost every day, has one which makes me think back while unearthing new information along the way.  Today it was the obit for Fred Malek which intrigues me.  Malek is a personality which has been written about in biographies of Richard Nixon.  The portion of the news story, which leaps out today, is the one that his family surely wishes had never occurred.

Mr. Malek’s initial foray into presidential politics came during the Nixon administration, when he was deputy under secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. He was later a driving force behind the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, raising $25 million for its construction.

Nixon’s daughters, Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, said in a statement, “Fred did more for our father’s legacy than anyone else in recent memory.”

But his association with Nixon would leave a stain on his own legacy.

In July 1971, the president was furious when the Bureau of Labor Statistics attributed a drop in the unemployment rate to a statistical quirk rather than to administration policies. According to news accounts as well as the Nixon archives, the president believed that a “Jewish cabal” was trying to sabotage him politically.

And so he instructed Mr. Malek, then the White House personnel chief, to count the number of Jews in the labor bureau.

Malek refused four times to do so, but finally relented. Guessing who was Jewish based on their last names, he sent the president a letter saying that 13 of 35 top employees were. The letter’s existence remained unknown for 17 years.

In 1988, The Washington Post reported on the letter and indicated that it had resulted in the demotions of at least two Jewish officials.

Mr. Malek, who had gone on to serve as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget under both Nixon and Ford in the 1970s, said he had nothing to do with the demotions.

“I would have found it offensive and morally unacceptable, and I would have refused,” he was quoted as saying.

At the time, in 1988, he was deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee and a high-level adviser to Vice President Bush, who was running for president. He resigned from the committee when the story broke. Slate subsequently reported that a White House memo showed that Mr. Malek had, in fact, known about the demotions.




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