Concern raised over new name of Nixon library theater

AP News
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Posted: Oct 28, 2016 5:20 PM

YORBA LINDA, Calif. (AP) — A former library director said naming a theater at the revamped Richard Nixon Presidential Library museum for a staffer who counted Jewish government workers at Nixon's request sends the wrong message to visitors.

Placing Fred Malek's name on the theater that shows an introductory film about Nixon is "outrageous," Timothy Naftali, a history professor at New York University and former library director, said on Twitter last week. The new theater is named for Malek and his wife.

Naftali posted the comments shortly after the Southern California museum reopened following a $15 million makeover.

"Having Mr. Malek's name on the theater could suggest to many that for the Nixon Foundation religious persecution is not a big deal," Naftali said in an email Friday. He said the U.S. government can still veto aspects of the museum.

Malek has come under fire for counting Jewish staffers at Nixon's request in 1971. He has since said he regretted doing so.

Malek, a former hotel and airline executive, is on the board of the Nixon Foundation, which raised the money for the museum overhaul.

Malek was a leader in helping to raise the funds, the foundation said in a statement.

"We're proud to have his name on the theater that begins tours in the new library, and are honored to consider him a friend," the statement said.

A message seeking comment was sent to officials at the Nixon Library, which is run by the National Archives and Records Administration.