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Nixon's doubts over 'Napalm girl' photo

The photo won AP photographer Nick Ut a Pulitzer Prize
The photo won AP photographer Nick Ut a Pulitzer Prize  

From CNN Producer Mike Ahlers

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former U.S. President Richard Nixon privately wondered whether a famous photograph of a Vietnamese girl running from a napalm attack had been staged, newly released White House tape recordings show.

In a wide-ranging conversation with aide H.R. Haldeman on June 12, 1972, Haldeman brought up the subject of the "napalm thing."

The photograph had been taken earlier that month, and was contributing to growing anti-war sentiment among the U.S. public.

"I wonder if that was a fix," Nixon responded to Haldeman.

"Could have been," Haldeman said, "because they got that picture of the little girl without any clothes. It made a hell of a bounce out of that one, but, it was North Viet ... (Haldeman stops to correct himself) South Vietnamese bombing South Vietnamese by accident. They thought they were hitting the enemy but they got their own refugees, apparently.

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"Napalm bothers people. You get a picture of a little girl with her clothes burnt off," Haldeman said

"I wondered about that," came Nixon's reply.

Nixon and Haldeman continue talking about the incident, but the rest of the brief conversation is fragmented and largely unintelligible.

The exchange is among about 500 hours of Nixon White House taped conversations released Thursday by the National Archives and Records Administration.

Associated Press photographer Huyn Cong (Nick) Ut won the Pulitzer Prize for the picture. He later moved to A.P.'s Los Angeles bureau.

Contacted by CNN Ut said Gen. William Westmoreland, the U.S. military commander in South Vietnam had questioned the photo, but AP and NBC had photographs showing planes dropping the napalm.

Ut, a native of South Vietnam, said he remains a fan of President Nixon for trying to protect the South Vietnamese from Communists. "You know, he was a good president. I like Nixon very much," he said.

Ut currently has an exhibit of photographs in Los Angeles called "From Hell to Hollywood."

The girl, Kim Phuc, survived her injuries and later moved to Toronto, Canada.




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