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Telegram From the Vice President of the United States to Senator John Kennedy, Harrisburg, PA

October 24, 1960

My telegram to you yesterday contained exact language from your mimeographed statement issued in New York on Thursday, October 20. Do you now contend that the quotation is inaccurate?

Your language clearly means what James Reston of the New York Times said it means, as I quoted in my telegram to you, as follows:

His [Mr. Kennedy's] statement this week on Cuba publicly calling for Government aid to overthrow Castro is a clear violation of the inter-American treaty prohibition against intervention in the internal affairs of the hemisphere republics.

Virtually every major newspaper which has commented on the subject understood your remarks as Mr. Reston did and as I did that you were advocating direct Government support of the anti-Castro forces both in exile and in Cuba. This is another case of your speaking first and thinking afterward - a habit which is a very dangerous one for a man who is asking the American people to select him as Commander in Chief of all the Armed Forces of this Nation.

If your original statement on Cuba had been intended only to cover what you now claim in your telegram to the effect that we should "let the forces of freedom in Cuba know that we believe that freedom will again arise in their country" you would have been advocating what has been the policy which the administration has been following for months. Apparently you are under the impression that when attention is called to your mistakes you can confuse people by immediately claiming that you were misquoted or that what you said was distorted. I will cite two other examples of this technique.

(1) When a report came out about what you said in Oregon to the effect that President Eisenhower could have expressed regrets to Khrushchev you claimed that your remarks had been distorted. You will recall that your present running mate took the lead in ridiculing your claim that your remarks had been distorted. Finally, when you were forced to put your remarks in the Congressional Record it was clear that you had not been misquoted and that what you said had not been distorted.

(2) You claimed distortion when I said that you advocated in 1955 that the free world should abandon Quemoy and Matsu and that in our second television debate you advocated the same policy. However, your vote favoring the resolution excluding Quemoy and Matsu from the Formosa defense perimeter, which would mean abandonment, is a matter of record which you cannot deny. Your language during the second television debate clearly indicates that you still favor that policy.

Now you cry distortion about your remarks on Cuba even though every major newspaper understood it the way I did - as did those most directly affected and with the most knowledge of the situation, the Ambassadors to the United Nations from the Latin American countries, many of whom expressed shock and dismay at your proposal.

It is true, as you stated in your telegram, that I said that I intended to talk about Quemoy and Matsu every day for the final 3 weeks of the campaign. When I said that I had no idea that you would make even a greater blunder about Cuba.

Consequently, I will talk about not only Quemoy and Matsu but also about Cuba every day during the next 2 weeks - I will do this because I am deeply concerned about the policies you advocate in those two areas of the world which might well lead to abandoning free territory in the Far East, and a loss of all of our Latin American allies in this hemisphere or worse. The United States in these critical times cannot risk a President who makes mistakes of this magnitude.

Your telegram does not make it clear whether you accept my proposal or not. However, I will be glad to have Fred Scribner meet with your staff to discuss the matter. I assume from your silence that you accept my proposal concerning the vice-presidential candidates and have instructed Mr. Scribner accordingly.

Richard Nixon, Telegram From the Vice President of the United States to Senator John Kennedy, Harrisburg, PA Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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