Sid Davidoff was standing at the reception area of the midtown Manhattan restaurant he owned when he saw his face splashed across the television.
“Hey Sid, you’re on TV!” restaurant patrons yelled as the phone lines began ringing off the hook with journalists calling to score an interview with Davidoff, who was the chief administrative assistant to New York Mayor John V. Lindsay at the time.
Although Davidoff was well known as Lindsay’s political aide, he wasn’t used to being in the spotlight and he was confused as to why his likeness was suddenly splashed across the news and why a host of journalists now had an interest in him.
The details, coming as White House Counsel John Dean provided the Senate Watergate Committee evidence of the president’s enemies list, quickly came together.
Dean’s June 1973 submission of a host of documents related to the Watergate scandal revealed Davidoff’s name — along with 19 others — was on President Richard Nixon’s “Opponents and Political Enemies List.”
The enemies list was a group of people Nixon thought were trying to derail his quest for a second term and whom he wanted to “screw” by using tactics such as tax audits to try to bring them down. Davidoff was No. 12 on the list. The memo described him as “a first class S.O.B., wheeler-dealer and suspected bagman. Positive results would really shake the Lindsay camp and Lindsay’s plans to capture youth vote. Davidoff in charge.”
Now, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the revelation of the list, Davidoff will join other Nixon enemies, as well as their surviving family members, as part of the “Lessons of Watergate” conference being held Wednesday and Thursday at the National Press Club.
“For me, the fact that this was exposed was so crazy, and I’m looking forward to talk about it with some of the people who had similar experiences,” Davidoff said of the upcoming gathering of the surviving members of the list.
Enemy of the People
Being an enemy of the state was never in Davidoff’s plans.
A lawyer by trade, he was interested in public service and government affairs and signed on as an aide to Lindsay, an ambitious politician who had served in the House and was on the shortlist as a potential Nixon vice presidential candidate in the 1968 election.
But in 1971, Lindsay ditched the Republican Party and launched a bid for president in the Democratic primary.
Although he never got the chance to ask anyone with knowledge of the situation, Davidoff is almost certain this ticked Nixon off and was the reason Davidoff got caught in the web.
“You had a mayor who at the time was very visible; he was a superstar in a lot of ways, doing the ‘Tonight Show.’ He really understood media, and it was difficult to bring him down,” Davidoff said of his boss. “I was probably the easier target, and sometimes when you bring down the person standing next to you, you get caught in that web, and I think that’s what they hoped for.”
When he first realized he was on Nixon’s enemies list, Davidoff said he poked fun at the situation.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.