President Nixon in 1971 discussed intimidating the nation’s three major television networks by keeping the constant threat of an antitrust suit hanging over them. In a July 2, 1971 tape-recorded discussion, aide Charles W. Colson told Nixon that whether filing an antitrust case against ABC, NBC and CBS “is good or not is perhaps not the major political consideration. But keeping this case in a pending status gives us one hell of a club on an economic issue that means a great deal to those three networks . . . something of a sword of Damocles.” Nixon responded,”Our gain is more important than the economic gain. We don’t give a goddam about the economic gain. Our game here is solely political. . . . As far as screwing them is concerned, I’m very glad to do it.”
“If the threat of screwing them is going to help us more with their programming than doing it, then keep the threat,” said Nixon. “Don’t screw them now. [Otherwise] they’ll figure that we’re done.” As for the antitrust actions, the White House kept the DOJ from filing suit until April 1972, when the government accused the networks of restraining trade and monopolizing prime-time entertainment with their own programs. The suits were dismissed without prejudice in 1974 after the government was unable to identify the requested documents.
From Maurice Stucke’s paper “Does the Rule of Reason Violate the Rule of Law?” which should be of interest to all Hayekians. (HT: Danny Sokol.)