Skip to comments.Matthews, Scholars Strongly Denounce Reagan Smear in CBS Miniseries (Hardball 10-21-03)
Posted on 10/22/2003 6:43:27 PM PDT by Stultis
I'm under the impression that we are required to limit ourselves to "fair use" quotes from MSNBC. Rather than interspersing quotes, I start with my summary and comments and then append some excerpts from the Hardball transcript at the end.
Ed Rollins, former Reagan campaign manager
Lou Cannon, author Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power
Martin Anderson, author Reagan: A Life in Letters
Matthews started out confirming that not one of these Reagan experts had been consulted or contacted by the creators of the miniseries. Most of the discussion concerned the quote regarding homosexuals put into the mouth of CBS's Reagan character when the actress playing Nancy Reagan urges the President to addresss the issue of AIDS: "They that live in sin shall die in sin." Also touched on was the equally dubuious exchange with Lou Wasserman where Wasserman says to Reagan, "People know youre an informer for the black list," and Reagan replies, "Ive never called anybody a Commie who wasnt a Commie".
In brief, all of Matthews' guests strong expressed the view that the AIDS quote was entirely oppossed to everything they knew of Reagans personality, demeanor, and his specific views and attitudes towards the subject of homosexuality. Regarding the other quotes is was clarified that, although Reagan did testify regarding communism in Hollywood, where he had been involved in resisting the efforts of communists to take over various unions in the entertainment industry, he never named names publicly.
EXCERPTS, "die in sin" psuedo-quote:
ANDERSON: Well, Chris, look at this. Like all good pieces of propaganda, most of what theyre saying is correct. Its what they leave out, like the economic recovery.
Its the little poison pills they put in, like the one you just quoted. Now thats a false fact. Even the lady who wrote it-whats her name, Eglaus (ph) admits it was false. And yet the chairman of CBS says we want this to be fair. I suggest he go take a look at the movie hes about to put out. And they still have time to pull out all the poison pills.
ROLLINS: [...] He, like everybody else in the White House, were very concerned about AIDS. It was in its infancy and very few people knew a whole lot about it. We did whatever we could to find it early on. And theres this great myth that he didnt care about it. He cared very deeply about it, and many of his friends in the art world and the Hollywood world were the first victims of it.
CANNON: Well, Chris, I fault Reagan for being a little slow on the AIDS epidemic.
But contrary to any homophobia, Ronald Reagan in 1978, before he was president, there was an initiative on the California ballot that would have discriminated against homosexual teachers and it was-it probably wasnt constitutional. There were people then who-I think Ed probably remembers-who advised Ronald Reagan not to take any part in this campaign.
He opposed the initiative. I mean, he actually very courageously, I thought, and a lot of people on both sides of the initiative, credit Reagan for defeating that initiative. So I think its really unfair to slam him as anti- gay. He just wasnt.
[...] Well, he came from a Hollywood milieu. And so he was used to people who were gay. [...] And he just simply didnt have the prejudices of many of the people around him.
ANDERSON: What Lou says is absolutely correct. I remember once in early 1980 on the campaign plain with issue about what do we do about gay groups that want to see him and demanding things. And he sat us down and he said, Now, look. First of all, he said, I know a lot of gays. I was in Hollywood. And then he reminded us, You know how many of them there are? And then he said, Look, leave them alone. And that was his policy.
EXCERPTS, "Commies" psuedo-quote:
MATTHEWS: [...] Ronald Reagan, quote, Ive never called anybody a Commie who wasnt a Commie.
Right of all, they argot here. The lingo. Ed, are you familiar with Ronald Reagan talking like that, in this cartoon-like the old Korean War comic books, Commies?
ROLLINS: No. I think-the three of us who have had lots of time around Ronald Reagan know a very gentle man who basically was really a nice person. He was what he appeared to be. He was-he had a great sense of humor, but he would never be disparaging. And was he anti-communist? Yes, he was. Certainly, he had a very strong core. But I just dont imagine any of that to be true.
MATTHEWS: [...] during the investigations, the legitimate investigations back in the early 50s and late 40s, when he was in SAG as president. Did he ever-Is there any record that he ever testified against anybody or turned in anybody?
CANNON: No. He was an informant for the FBI. But when he testified, and I reprint some of the testimony in my most recent book. When he testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the counsel, a man named Stripling, was very unhappy with Ronald Reagan because he didnt name names.
MATTHEWS: Robert Stripling, he was the chief counsel. He was the guy that got the pumpkin papers, and hes the guy that helped Nixon nail Alger Hiss, yes.
ROLLINS: As a matter of fact, if you look back...
CANNON: Anyway, if you look at the liberal publications of the day, they praised Ronald Reagans testimony. So for them to rewrite it this way is really wrong.
MATTHEWS: I just want to repeat something somebody said earlier, which I thought was brilliant, which is what they do in Hollywood is they soften up their subject like Ronald Reagan. They show some nice pictures. They say some nice things about them that they cant deny saying nice about them. They do it to soften them up, and theyll put the dagger in.
And this is what they did in the movie Nixon. They softened him up in a sentimental way and then stuck the knife right in: hes a drunk; hes a bum; hes a bad guy, a crook. Thats what they always do out there.
There is a prejudice that they dont know out there in Hollywood. And I think in this kind of case its too bad you cant sue the bastards. Because what is happening here is clearly, these are late hits.
EXCERPTS, "Political Buzz" segment later in the show:
MATTHEWS: [...] Anyway, coming up, is a new Ronald Reagan television miniseries revising history? I think so. I think its trash.
MATTHEWS: He fought the communists in the labor unions back in the 40s. He was head of the Screen Actors Guild. Hes been through all that fighting. He was a bit more sophisticated...
FINEMAN: He was more sophisticated and more knowledgeable, as his letters proved. A lot more thoughtful guy than most people gave him credit for.
MATTHEWS: But the fact that he was an Elia Kazan guy, that did what he did. And he never did it. Theres no evidence he ever testified against any other member of the film community. This is just totally fabricated, as far as I can tell, James.
MATTHEWS: I know the Hollywood game. Its played brilliantly by Oliver stone, whos totally incredible.
What they do is they soften up their target, and its always a Republican target. Nixon in the movie Nixon, here, Ronald Reagan, a man they despise. They soften it up with sentimentalities and they say nice, obviously things about him, and then they put the dagger in. He was the guy who ratted on people during the Cold War.
Or heres another one. In another scene Reagan is confronted by his wife, Nancy, about dealing with the disease AIDS, to which Reagan replies, They that live in sin shall die in sin. What is he, Jeremiah? People dont talk like that. And theres no evidence that he was ever intolerant, ever in his career, towards gay people.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me tell you something, when they go out there, they use people like Lou Wasserman, who passed away, because hes beyond litigation. They use people who cant sue them, thats why those names are chosen.
This is about money. Its about screwing people without facing any legal risk.
(Excerpt) Read more at msnbc.com ...
It took me a very long time, probably because of his Hollywood antecedents, to accept this as fact. For an excuse I can only point to the rampant superficiality that is a signal characteristic of so many of the Hollywood set, examples of which abound, and we need look no further than the wretches involved in this miserable production to find them.
But he really was what you saw, and what convinced me was reading some of his letters in Reagan: A Life In Letters and Reagan In His Own Hand, two compendia that no hack in a CBS office had to ghost-write for him (listening, Hillary?). Highly recommended. Actors and politicians are not noted for being particularly genuine people. Reagan was the exception.