Legends of Tomorrow: The True Story Behind The Nixon & Robert Redford Episode
President Richard Nixon's famous "I Am Not A Crook" line acted as the establishing incident of "The Getaway," episode 10 of Legends of Tomorrow season 4. The events of the episode saw everyone's favorite team of time-traveling misfits trying to save the world (and, to a lesser degree, the independent film industry) in the face of a mysterious change to Nixon's character that had dire consequences for future history. Although the episode is mainly a Smokey and the Bandit homage, but it was rooted in some very real and seismic events.
On November 17, 1973, Nixon met with a number of reporters and editors for a televised question-and-answer session at Walt Disney World's Contemporary Hotel. The hot topic of the day was the growing scandal centered around the burglary of the Democratic National Committee's headquarters at the Watergate Hotel by members of Nixon's reelection committee and the mounting evidence that Nixon had been aware of their plans and worked to cover them up. When directly asked if he was involved, Nixon replied that "people have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I am not a crook." Nixon's involvement would later be confirmed by the press and he resigned from office before he could be impeached by Congress.
That's not what happened in Legends of Tomorrow. "The Getaway" opens with the Legends learning that something altered the timeline just before Nixon met with the press and made his famous statement. For reasons that the team had to travel back in time to investigate, something rendered "Tricky Dicky" unable to lie. Worse yet, he was also incapable of not rambling about private matters in public settings, such as his belief that he was an adequate lover, at best, despite his wife Patrica's assurances to the contrary. The end result was global chaos, as peace talks and trade deals fell apart in the face of Nixon's sudden brutal honesty and inability to keep his mouth shut.
Ray Palmer notes an interesting side-effect of this is that Robert Redford's film career apparently floundered in the new timeline. With reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein having no need to write their famous expose of the Watergate scandal after Nixon confessed everything, their story was never adapted into the film All The President's Men, which starred Redford and Dustin Hoffman. This also apparently averted Redford's creation of the Sundance Film Festival, prompting a sudden call to action from Mick Rory, who declared "No Redford? No Sundance?! No indie film?! No artful nudity?! We've got to fix this!"
While this is an amusing gag, it is also perhaps the greatest point of exaggeration in the story of "The Getaway." While All The President's Men is a great film and one Redford was deeply involved with financing and bringing to life, it is highly unlikely that it never being made would have killed his career in Hollywood. At the time of the Watergate scandal, Redford was the hottest male star in Hollywood following an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in The Sting and it was his success in a string of hit movies afterward that allowed him to persuade Warner Bros. to take a chance on All The President's Men in 1976.
It would be several years following the release of All The President's Men before Redford would begin producing feature films on his own through his production company Wildwood Enterprises. While the absence of All The President's Men may have delayed his success as a producer and director somewhat, it seems highly unlikely Redford would have had his Hollywood career collapse completely without it. Still, there is some humor to be found in the fact that this is the most unrealistic aspect of an episode of Legends of Tomorrow featuring a wolf-woman and a magical insect that forces people to tell the truth.