18 1/2 Minutes: The Erasure of Watergate Tape 342

Hear the infamous gap in the tape that sealed the fate of US President Richard Nixon exactly 50 years ago

Hear the infamous '18 and a half minute gap' in the Watergate tape that sealed the fate of US President Richard Nixon

On 20 June 1972, Richard Nixon recorded himself having a conversation that likely contained damning proof of his role in the cover-up of the Watergate Hotel break-in, a scandal that would ultimately lead to his resignation. When congressional investigators became aware of the conversation and subpoenaed the tape, they discovered that someone had erased eighteen and a half minutes of the tape.

The erasure was studied by audiology experts and a report produced, documenting at least four or five separate erasure events on the magnetic reel-to-reel tape. It was sloppy. Many suspected – due to his well-known technological incompetence – that Nixon himself erased it.

But the erased portion of the tape was not silent; far from it.

Multiple attempts have been made in the half-century since to extract the original contents of ‘the 18 1/2 minute gap’ as it came to be called. So far, all have failed.

Diagram of audio events within the 18.5 minutes of ‘silence’ delivered to congressional investigators on 31 May 1974 (courtesy the Audio Engineering Society).

This summer, the Museum of Portable Sound will present this erasure as the basis for a temporary summer blockbuster exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in scandal.

18 1/2 Minutes: The Erasure of Watergate Tape 342 will allow visitors to hear the entire erasure for themselves while perusing once-secret US government documents and other paraphernalia that can only be unlocked on our website via a unique secret password.

Visitors will only have access to the materials for the duration of the 18 1/2 minute recording.

The longer you listen, the more you will see.

US Congressmen listen to Nixon’s secret tapes on 5 August 1974 after the materials were made available by the House Judiciary Committee in Washington. AP Wirephoto.

18 1/2 Minutes: The Erasure of Watergate Tape 342 will open to the public on 20 June 2022.

Stay tuned for updates and more information about this historic exhibition, and follow #TheRoseMaryStretch across social media.