In this era of incessant opposition research, no one — not even our greatest Americans — can be considered safe from, at the very least, overstatement.

Take Ronald Reagan, for instance. The last thing anyone accused “The Gipper” of was being a racist. Now, he reputation is under attack, as NYU professor Tim Naftali, working for Atlantic, has written voluminously of a 1971 telephone conservation between Mr. Reagan, then governor of California, and President Richard Nixon. Mr. Reagan was justifiably incensed at a United Nations vote to recognize the People’s Republic of China. In voicing his dismay in rather animated fashion, he referred to delegates from Africa as “monkeys ... still uncomfortable wearing shoes.” That was the extent of his racial comments during the 12-minute-long conversation. And apparently at any other time in his life.

As such, this hardly sounds like The Gipper, an eminently decent man. But tapes do not lie. He said it, and should be rightfully upbraided, even condemned, for it. But here’s the rub, as Reagan school Paul Kengor, author of eight books and myriad articles about the man, said, after reading (and writing) millions of words about Mr. Reagan, this was the only time he can be remotely accused of racism. What accounted for this time? Who knows? Frustration, even anger, at a critical vote? Perhaps.

Anyway, Mr. Kengor prefers a different story to establish Mr. Reagan’s non-racist bona fides. Back in the ‘30s, when Jim Crow prevailed to some extent even in Northern states, two of Mr. Reagan’s black college football teammates were denied accommodation at a hotel in the future president’s hometown, Dixon, Ill., solely on account of their skin color.

No worries, Mr. Reagan said, you’ll stay at my house. His teammates were skeptical, but when Nelle Reagan, his mom, opened the door and welcomed them with a warm smile, their concerns were totally allayed. As Mr. Kengor wrote, “They spent the night. I doubt that the typical home in America was like that. The Reagan home was.”

And so Mr. Kengor went on to emphasize: “Ask anyone who knew Ronald Reagan and they will tell you that he was not a racist, period.”

(5) comments

CRT

Do the terms "welfare queen" and "black buck" mean anything to you? Said by Reagan. Reagan was a big fan of apartheid South Africa. Reagan was a master of racist dog whistles.

Jim McCarthy

Once again Star editors writhe in turmoil that a holy icon of the GOP is criticized. Y'all should actually read the Atlantic article. The piece is quite clear about the fact that the telephone conversation between Reagan and Nixon contained a racist remark. In context, however, the author reminds readers that Nixon did not misunderstand the import of Reagan's remark and echoed it several times. In addition, the article points out that Reagan supported apartheid in Rhodesia and South Africa. Historians are clear that Reagan's announcement of his Presidential campaign in Philadelphia Mississippi where civil rights activists were murdered was no accident. Then, there is Reagan's attack on welfare queens. Yes, it was only one remark but, in context, it speaks volumes.

Will

So now we are going after dead presidents? They tear down memorials to leaders of a previous era, (forget teaching moments in history) they dig up remarks decades old all for what? The left will stop

at nothing to pursue the infectious malignancy of hatred. They will be the cause of the downfall of this country. Hatred has never ever had a positive outcome.

JEngels

So, your point is everyone gets a pass for an occasional racist outburst?

Spock Here

So we return to "some of my best friends are black"? If he wasn't a racist he felt no shame in making stereotypical racist remarks, and you say "that's it." We used to think such language was beneath the dignity of public office, but the bar is set very low indeed, now

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