George Harrison Sent Nixon an Angry Telegram After 1973 Immigration Troubles

George Harrison poses for a portrait with an acoustic guitar in circa 1974.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

George Harrison poses for a portrait with an acoustic guitar in circa 1974.

John Lennon wasn't the only member of the Beatles to have problems with immigration, according to documents uncovered in a Freedom of Information Act search by a Beatles researcher and reviewed by Billboard.

Chip Madinger -- co-author with Mark Easter of Eight Arms to Hold You, and with Scott Raile of Lennonology: Strange Days Indeed -- told Billboard, "When I was researching Lennonology I did a Freedom of Information and got his INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service] file and just went ahead and got George's at the same time. George came to the States in March of '73 for the Apple meetings and to work on the Ringo album," he said. "He came in from Pakistan and was detained at the airport. And they went through some 'he said and she said' and but eventually was allowed to come into the States. And I believe he was given permission to stay until June 1 and he was looking for more time.

"He'd supposedly gone to an INS office and gotten an OK to stay until the 30th of June. And he wanted more time beyond that. And that's when it was denied. So he and Pattie shipped back to the U.K. on, I believe it was, June 28th of '73. And he must have just gotten a bee in his bonnet or something about it and wrote this telegram."

The telegram, addressed to "President Richard Nixon, White House DC," with misspellings, reads: "Sir, how can you bomb Cambonian (sic) citizens and worry about kicking me out of the country for smoking marijuana at the time. Your repressive emperaour (sic) war monger ways stop before too piece (cq) luv (cq). We will run the world Harry Krisher, Hare Hara Krishne Hare Hara Hare Hara Krishner. George Harrison." "I think it's clear that he dictated it because of the misspellings in it," Madinger says.

"So it fell upon James Greene to write the response. And it goes, 'Your telegram to President Nixon concerning your departure from the United States has been referred to this office for reply. And I am informed that in denying your application for an extension of stay in May 1973 the district director of our service office in Los Angeles advised you of the reasons for this denial.' So it's kind of a little bit of 'We already told you why.'"

A further memo by staff assistant Anne V. Higgins to the Attorney General, dated Aug. 22, 1973, said "Writer concerned about being denied a visa extension for a marihuana conviction in England."

According to Leon Wildes, the attorney who helped John Lennon with his highly publicized immigration troubles which he documented in his 2016 book John Lennon Vs. The USA, Lennon's immigration problems in the '70s began after the Nixon Administration feared he would galvanize young voters, so they then moved to deport him. Lennon's victory came in four steps in Federal Court, according to Wildes' blog. He and Yoko were first approved as "outstanding artists" and then was given "non-priority status" to keep from being deported. Lennon also sued the government for "selective prosecution," and lastly won an appeal on the deportation order. The Lennon case became an important legal precedent. "In the field of immigration law today, no one has done more than my old friend John," Wildes wrote in his book. "Whether you call it non-priority status, deferred action, or prosecutorial discretion, as it's become known more recently, this remains the only remedy available in many of the most difficult immigration cases."

According to Wildes, George Harrison later told Lennon that it was "the Lennon doctrine" that helped make him no longer ineligible for a visa. He said that as of January 1976, the State Department said that convictions for "innocent" drug possession convictions were not reason to prevent entry into the United States.

Madinger is the co-author of (with Mark Easter) of Eight Arms To Hold You, a 700-page book originally published in 2000 and 'remastered' with new information in 2018 that goes into incredible detail about the careers of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr after the breakup of the Beatles. He followed that up in 2015 with the first volume of Lennonology called Strange Days Indeed (with Scott Raile) that goes into detail about the life and music of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.