Jack White, a reporter whose story on President Nixon’s underpayment of income taxes won a Pulitzer Prize and prompted Nixon to utter the famous line “I am not a crook,” died Wednesday at 63.
White died at his Cape Cod, Mass., home, said WPRI-TV in Providence, where he worked as a reporter.
He was working for The Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin in 1973 when he used tax documents and a tip to establish that Nixon had failed to pay a large portion of his income taxes in 1970 and 1971.
Nixon ultimately agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes, and White won a Pulitzer for national reporting.
At an Associated Press Managing Editors convention the month after the story ran, one of White’s colleagues at the Evening Bulletin asked Nixon about his income taxes, and the president replied: “People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I am not a crook.”
“Whatever he did was right. It was accurate. It was fair,” said WJAR reporter Jim Taricani, who said White took him under his wing when he was a young reporter.
Taricani turned to White when deciding whether to disclose the source of a secret FBI videotape that showed a Providence mayoral aide taking a bribe. White told him not to do it, and Taricani served four months of home confinement.
White’s scoop on Nixon almost didn’t happen. The night he was prepared to write the story, the union representing reporters voted to strike. He later recalled rolling the story out of his typewriter and putting it in his wallet.
“I was dreading the information I had was going to get out there. Every day I was checking out-of-town newspapers,” he later told The Providence Journal.
The strike ended 12 days later, and the story ran on Oct. 3, 1973.
The story revealed that Nixon and his wife paid just $793 in income taxes in 1970 and $878 in 1971, and received a tax refund totaling more than $131,000 for those two years. Nixon ultimately agreed to pay $476,000 in back taxes.
White also broke the news in 2001 that former Providence Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci was indicted on federal corruption charges. White knew it before Cianci, who told reporters: “I heard it from Jack White.”
White began his career in 1969 as a reporter for the Newport Daily News. He moved the following year to the Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin, where he worked as a general assignment reporter, Newport bureau chief and head of the newspaper’s first permanent investigative team.
He later worked for WBZ-TV in Boston and was a reporter for the Cape Cod Times before joining WPRI in 1985 as chief investigative reporter. He won two Emmy Awards for his television reporting.