As It Happens

Remembering Jimmy Breslin's 1977 takedown of Frost and Nixon

Rumpled. Brash. Always trying to look at life through the lens of the common American. That was Jimmy Breslin.
In this 1986 file photo, Jimmy Breslin of the New York Daily News speaks to reporters after winning the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, in the paper's newsroom. (Mario Cabrera/The Associated Press)

Story transcript

Rumpled. Brash. Always trying to look at life through the lens of the common, working American. That was Jimmy Breslin. For more than five decades, Breslin was a fixture of New York journalism, notably for the New York Daily News.

Breslin died earlier this week in his New York City apartment. He was 88. 

New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin, left, sits at police headquarters in New York after the arrest of David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam serial killer suspect who had contacted Breslin with several cryptic messages during the killing spree. (The Associated Press)

Breslin, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work, once declared himself "the best person to ever have a column in this business." 

Back in 1977, Breslin spoke with former As It Happens host Barbara Frum about the notorious Frost-Nixon interviews, a series of interviews conducted by British journalist David Frost that disgraced former-president Richard Nixon. Here's an excerpt from that conversation: 

Jimmy Breslin: I do think that it is just perfect that David Frost and Nixon would find each other. I couldn't find two more similar people than Frost and Nixon. They deserve each other.

Barbara Frum: You know, I got the sense that Frost was just a frustrated DA [District Attorney] last night. He wanted to do the judging that a lot of people wanted to do.

JB: Frost is a frustrated disc jockey. Not even smart enough to be a DA. C'mon. 

BF: What was the point of doing the show in your opinion, what's the point of skewering the man in public?

JB: The true American dream: make money. Just make money, rip the public off. Cry a little bit for them, what the hell, he was getting $700,000 to a million, so he sobbed a little.
David Frost, left, pictured with Richard Nixon.

BF: Yeah, that's an interesting point, for that kind of money, that Nixon would humiliate himself again. 

JB: He'd do it again next week! Pay him, he'll do anything. It's known as a whore, isn't it? 

BF: It's interesting, isn't it, because he doesn't need it. He keeps professing to be interested in history but what does he need this for? 

JB: Because he's a greedy little man. History? This fella doesn't know what history is. This man never even worked at the job of being President. Never did a day's work in his life. Just schemed and connived and cried and groveled and stabbed people in the back, and that was his idea of how you live a life.
In this Nov. 2, 2004, file photo, author-columnist Jimmy Breslin poses for a photo at his New York apartment. Breslin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning chronicler of wise guys and underdogs who became the brash embodiment of the old-time, street smart New Yorker, died Sunday. (Jim Cooper/The Associated Press)

BF: There were so many questions last night, Mr. Breslin, that were begging to be asked, and weren't. At one point, Nixon said, "I know how I coulda gotten away with this, do you want to know how I coulda done it?" And it revealed endless months of second-guessing himself and Frost never plunged into that whole area. 

JB: Sure. I mean, it's a basic thing, the man lied for 780 days. That's from the day of the burglary to the day he admitted his culpability in the whole cover-up. And never once did Frost grasp the magnitude of that, of a man lying to his country for that length of time. Now, as you're talking to him at this very moment, he barely admits he lied. He says, "One or two times I lied, I only did it to protect my friends." You know, that's the oldest thing in the world. "I done it for the wife and kids," the hold-up man said. C'mon. 

To hear Barbara Frum's full conversation with Jimmy Breslin, click Listen. 

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