Roger Stone emerged from a federal courthouse in Florida on Friday, raised his arms wide and flashed two V-shaped hand signs to the mass of press and protesters assembled just for him.
The longtime Trump friend and adviser had just posted a $250,000 bond after being charged by the special counsel’s office with obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements. And this symbol invoked comparisons to Richard M. Nixon’s gesture as he departed the White House for the final time as president. On Aug. 9, 1974, after the Watergate scandal had forced him to resign, Nixon turned to the crowd one final time before boarding Marine One. Beaming, he swung his arms into a broad V, and formed two “victory” signs with his hands.
Though Nixon frequently used the gesture at speeches and public events as a signal of victory in the Vietnam War, it was this defiant final deployment that has become the defining image of his presidency.
Like his idol, Stone gives those v-shaped signs at every opportunity he gets. The simple gesture is one of his more frequent invocations of his icon.
He deployed it at the Republican National Convention in 2016, where he was drumming up support for then-presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump.
It only takes about a minute for the salute to appear in Netflix’s documentary “Get Me Roger Stone,” as its subject watches Trump addresses the Republican National Convention in 2016.
And when said film appeared at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2017, Stone, of course, did this.
Stone’s pose on Friday was the talk of the town — by which, of course, we mean political Twitter. Users gawked at Stone’s blatant mirroring of Nixon’s sign. After all, Nixon is seen as one of the most corrupt figures in U.S. history. If you’re under indictment, and have just been arrested by the FBI, why welcome the comparison?
There’s something you need to understand.
Nobody stans Richard Milhous Nixon harder than Roger Stone.
He wrote a book in 2014 presenting an alternate history of the Watergate scandal that John Dean, a former aide to the president, called “pure bulls---." (A more favorable publicity blurb came from none other than Donald Trump, president of the Trump Organization: “I knew Nixon in the late ’80s. I met him in George Steinbrenner’s box at Yankee Stadium. Roger Stone nails it. He really understands Nixon.")
Stone has a back tattoo of Nixon; he is constantly photographed surrounded by pictures of Nixon; he has a martini recipe from Nixon — who got it from Winston Churchill! Or at least, so Stone told the New Yorker.
Again, he has a back tattoo of Nixon.
Stone’s connection to Nixon is woven into the fabric of his own political trajectory and philosophy. And he himself has done the weaving (much to the displeasure of the Nixon Foundation).
He first entered the political arena in 1972, when he engaged in some minor shenanigans on behalf of the Nixon reelection campaign. As Jeffrey Toobin reported in a 2008 New Yorker profile of the operative aptly titled “The Dirty Trickster":
Stone moved to Washington to attend George Washington University, but he became so engrossed in Republican politics that he never graduated. He was just nineteen when he played a bit part in the Watergate scandals. He adopted the pseudonym Jason Rainier and made contributions in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance to the campaign of Pete McCloskey, who was challenging Nixon for the Republican nomination in 1972. Stone then sent a receipt to the Manchester Union Leader, to “prove” that Nixon’s adversary was a left-wing stooge. Stone hired another Republican operative, who was given the pseudonym Sedan Chair II, to infiltrate the McGovern campaign. Stone’s Watergate high jinks were revealed during congressional hearings in 1973, and the news cost Stone his job on the staff of Senator Robert Dole.
“The reason I’m a Nixonite is because of his indestructibility and resilience. He never quit. His whole career was all built around his personal resentment of élitism. ... We had a non-élitist message. We were the party of the workingman!” he told the New Yorker (in 2017 Stone showed up at President Trump’s inauguration dressed like Eustace Tilley, for what it’s worth).
So it’s no wonder that at the most notorious — and, potentially, most dangerous — moment of a controversial career, Stone once again pulled out the victory sign. It startled; it shocked. But it should not surprise.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated how long it takes Stone to use the V sign in a Netflix documentary. It only takes a little over one minute.