RENO - As a U.S. Senate candidate in 1974, Harry Reid criticized President Gerald Ford's pardon of former President Richard Nixon as "the ultimate coverup."
But now on the pardon's 30th anniversary, the Senate's No. 2 ranking Democrat says he has changed his position.
"Of course, everybody at the time wanted blood," Reid said. "They wanted the president to be hurt. But he (Ford) did the right thing.
"In hindsight, all of the rest of us were wrong. He did the right thing for the country. It was the beginning of the healing of Watergate with the pardon ... It was very statemanslike what he did," he said.
Exactly a month after Nixon announced his resignation following the Watergate scandal, Ford pardoned him for all crimes he may have committed.
At the time, then Lt. Gov. Reid was running for the U.S. Senate against Republican Paul Laxalt, who went on to beat him by 624 votes.
"All Americans abhorred the Watergate coverup," Reid said then. "But a pardon before a trial is the ultimate coverup."
Reid, then 34, said he also thought the pardon was motivated by Ford's desire to avoid a Nixon trial at the same time Ford was running for the White House.
Now, Reid - who's seeking re-election to a fourth term - said he thinks the pardon was in the country's best interests.
"I think I'm kind of reflective of the whole country," he told the a Reno newspaper. "At the time that was done, it was a terribly unpopular thing ... Time has proven Ford right and the rest of us wrong."
Laxalt, 82, a former Nevada governor and two-term U.S. senator, also has shifted positions on the pardon.
At the time, Laxalt supported the pardon, saying "hopefully it will add materially to a badly needed national healing process."
He declined to be interviewed and a spokesman referred a reporter to Laxalt's autobiography, which was published in 2000.
"Whether it was the right thing to do is for historians to judge. Politically, it was a disaster," Laxalt wrote.
"Without any conditioning of the people as to why a pardon was in the public interest, the news of the pardon came like an unexpected cold shower," he added.
Laxalt recalled he was the only Republican elected to the Senate in 1974.