‘All In The Family’: President Nixon Privately Bashed the Sitcom for Showing an LGBTQ Character

Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner, Carroll O'Connor, and Sally Struthers in 'All In The Family'
Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner, Carroll O’Connor, and Sally Struthers in ‘All In The Family’ | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

All In The Family is considered one of TV’s most groundbreaking shows. Unlike any other series of its time, the sitcom promoted progressive ideas about race, sexual identity, and women’s rights. It helped bring popular culture into modern times, but not without criticism. 

One of the show’s most notable critics was President Richard Nixon. He never spoke about it publicly, but the disgraced politician bashed an episode in a recorded private discussion. 

‘All In The Family’ promoted meaningful cultural conversations

When All In The Family premiered in 1968, there was nothing like it on American TV. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed just four years prior, and the country was ushering in a new era of change. 

The sitcom revolved around Archie Bunker (Carrol O’Connor), a working-class man from Queens who held bigoted and prejudiced views about people of color, sexuality, and women. He lived with his sweet wife, Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton), his progressive daughter, Gloria (Sally Struthers), and his outspoken liberal son-in-law, Michael (Rob Reiner).

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Archie often voiced his antiquated opinions about people and culture. But being the voice of progressivism, Gloria and Michael always challenged his ideas. 

One episode of All In The Family addressed prejudice against the LGBTQ community

All In The Family wasn’t shy about highlighting major societal issues. And in just its fifth episode, “Judging Books By Covers,” the series tackled prejudice against the LGBQ community.

In the episode, Michael and Gloria invite their friend, Roger (Tony Geary), over for dinner. Archie is unhappy because he thinks Roger’s wardrobe and mannerisms suggest he’s gay. 

Jean Stapleton and Carroll O'Connor in 'All in the Family'
Jean Stapleton and Carroll O’Connor in ‘All in the Family’ | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

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Archie meets up with one of his tall, strong, rugged old buddies, Steve (Philip Carey), at the bar. When he brings up the topic of Roger being gay, Steve reveals that he is gay too, dispelling all the prejudiced stereotypes Archie had. 

President Nixon criticized the sitcom in a recorded discussion

While he was in office, some of President Nixon’s conversations were recorded. As reported by ABC News, in one discussion with his domestic affairs adviser, John Ehrlichman, the President brought up All In The Family

He specifically spoke about the “Judging Books By Covers” episode. And while using derogatory language about the LGBTQ community, he suggested the show promoted ”destructive” ideas. 

“The point that I make is that, goddamn it, I do not think that you glorify on public television homosexuality,” Nixon said. “You don’t glorify it, John, any more than you glorify, uh, wh*res. I don’t want to see this country go that way. You know what happened to the Greeks. Homosexuality destroyed them. Sure, Aristotle was a ho*o, we all know that, so was Socrates.”

In 1974, after his criminal activity was exposed in the Watergate Investigation, Nixon resigned from office. His recorded tapes were eventually released to the National Archives.