Former President Richard Nixon doubted the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a naked 9-year-old Vietnamese girl fleeing a napalm attack was authentic, according to recently released White House tapes from the National Archives.
The black-and-white photograph by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut depicted a terrified girl running, her arms outstretched and her clothes burned off, from the burning village of Trang Bang, following an attack by U.S. forces on 8 June 1972.
On the tape, recorded in the Oval Office, Nixon talks with then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger about escalating the bombing of Vietnam and adds, “I’d rather use the nuclear bomb.” Nixon criticizes Kissinger for being concerned about civilian casualties.
“You’re so goddamned concerned about the civilians, and I don’t give a damn,” Nixon says. “I don’t care.”
He then says Ut’s famous photo was “fixed,” a comment that columnist Robert Scheer called “a sentiment worthy of Slobodan Milosevic.”
The Associated Press stood by the veracity of the photograph, according to published reports.
The girl was later identified as Phan Thi Kim Phuc, whose life following her unwilling fame was chronicled by Canadian journalist Denise Chong in her book, The Girl in the Picture: The Story of Kim Phuc, the Photograph and the Vietnam War.