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Three of America's most compelling presidents - Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon - bugged their White House offices and tapped their telephones. They left behind thousands of secretly recorded conversations, from momentous to mundane. In this documentary project, American RadioWorks eavesdrops on presidential telephone calls to hear how each man used one-on-one politics to shape history.

All the President's Bugs
An overview of secret White House taping.


Listen to the hour-long documentary or read the transcript.


The President Calling book and CD set is available for purchase from Amazon.



John F. Kennedy

JFK was the first president to secretly tape his calls on a regular basis. The recordings demonstrate Kennedy's ability to charm and -- sometimes -- the limits of his power to persuade.

Learn more about Kennedy's tapes, or about this story:

  • Mississippi Crisis
  • Lyndon B. Johnson

    Johnson's favorite office tool was the phone. The 9,500 calls Johnson secretly taped are a revealing record of his character and presidency.

    Learn more about Johnson's tapes, or about these stories:

  • The Sudden President
  • Road from Selma
  • Vietnam Dilemma
  • Richard M. Nixon

    Richard Nixon taped more conversations than any president in history. The recordings show an astute political strategist, an isolated man and a doomed president.

    Learn more about Nixon's tapes, or about these stories:

  • Choosing Rehnquist
  • Bombing for Peace
  • Watergate Firings
  • CREDITS

    Producers: Stephen Smith and Kate Ellis
    Editor: Deborah George
    Coordinating Producer: Sasha Aslanian
    Project Coordinator: Misha Quill
    Web Manager: John Pearson
    Web Production Supervisor: Michael Wells

    Web Producer: Ochen Kaylan
    Managing Editor: Stephen Smith
    Executive Producer: Bill Buzenberg
    Production Assistance: Sarah Fazio, Ellen Guettler,
    Sarah Lancaster, Phoebe Larsen,
    Inna Ponomarenko, David Shreve,
    Patrick McGrath,
    and Tennessee Watson

    Major funding for American RadioWorks comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.