Barry H. Landau, "America's Presidential Historian," and Supposedly Sticky Fingers Felt Up Nixon Library
You may have read or heard about Barry H. Landau, who calls himself "America's presidential historian," getting arrested July 9 at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore for allegedly stealing historical documents, including ones signed by Abraham Lincoln.
Did Landau visit our Nixon Presidential Library and Museum over the years?
Yes he did.
Did the National Archives staff check to ensure Landau's supposedly sticky fingers did not leave the Yorba Linda facility with something that did not belong to him?
Yes it did.
"We have checked," museum director Tim Naftali tells the Weekly. "Mr. Landau did not visit our research room in Yorba Linda."
The FBI advised libraries, museums and other historical collectors visited by Landau to double-check their records to make sure nothing is missing after the arrest of the historian and his 24-year-old assistant, Jason Savedoff.
An employee at the historical library in Baltimore called police after supposedly observing Savedoff and Landau acting suspiciously, with the older man allegedly concealing a document in a portfolio and walking away. Court documents say a police search of a locker that Savedoff held a key to turned up 60 documents Landau had signed out, including papers signed by Lincoln worth $300,000, numerous presidential inaugural ball invitations and programs worth $500,000, a signed Statue of Liberty commemoration valued at $100,000 and a signed Washington monument commemoration valued at $100,000.
The FBI reportedly searched Landau's Manhattan apartment earlier this month, but it is unclear whether anything was seized.
Landau's attorney maintains his client did nothing wrong, that authorities have found no pilfered items in his possession and that his being held without bail is excessive. It's unknown whether Savedoff has retained legal representation.
The Pennsylvania Historical Society library in Philadelphia is among those busily making sure it was not ripped off. Landau and Savedoff darkened the doorway there 17 times between December and May, reports the New York Times, which quotes the senior collections director saying the 63-year-old historian introduced his young assistant as his nephew.
Suspicions rose--and staff was informed to watch the pair closely--after Savedoff displayed incompetence and lack of enthusiasm as a researcher, and they both sought a tremendous volume of material without being specific as to what they were looking for. Fears went into overdrive after a card sent to an address Landau had listed on an application was returned to the society as undeliverable, and a call to a phone number Savedoff provided was met with a recording saying the number did not work. The pair hasn't returned since.
Various media reports noted Landau has in the past falsely represented himself as a 60 Minutes producer and former protocol official in the Gerald R. Ford White House. The Orange County Register's Peter Larsen bought that last whopper in a December 2007 preview of Landau's appearance at the Nixon Library to promote his book The President's Table: Two Hundreds Years of Dining and Diplomacy.
Larsen's piece included Landau spinning some of the amazing--and what others now call suspect--coincidences that have had the historian supposedly brushing up with every president from Dwight D. Eisenhower through Barack Obama. And, yes, that includes Orange County's favorite disgraced son.
After Richard M. Nixon left California for Manhattan--not to be kicked around anymore, mind you--Nixon moved into the same building where Landau and his mother lived. Soon the teenager and the future president were an odd couple, sometimes just hanging out in Nixon's library, sometimes stepping out for ice cream and hotdogs.
It's small wonder that then-President Nixon and wife Pat, in Landau's telling, tapped him to plan special events held outside the White House.
Among those who have long questioned Landau's presidential tales is Presidents 'R Us, as the snarky website crowed with a post-arrest item titled, "My Country, Writer Wrong." Two Landau stories presented in that post involve Tricky Dick and, conveniently, cannot be verified.
Barry sees what others can only imagine.
The "Presidential Historian" and dinner plate collector of the stars rushed to inform New York Post readers, and through them the world, that he alone spotted Tricia Nixon, daughter of disgraced former President Richard Nixon, among Macy's shoppers one day. They, or at least Barry, recalled halcyon days of yore when Trish was married at the White House, an event memorialized in an Executive Mansion hallway, according to Barry.
Landau also shared the good news that President Barack Obama recently placed a wreath at Nixon's grave, a trick he managed without the White House or any news organ discovering it.
Perhaps the Nixon Library gift shop remainder table, which is mere yards from that gravesite, still has a signed copy of Landau's book.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.