Rewriting Ronald Reagan

How the Media Have Worked to Distort, Dismantle and Destroy His Legacy

EXTRA: Reagan, Slammed by Celebrities

    Ronald Reagan was a joke in much of his old Hollywood home. They worked anti-Reagan jokes into sitcoms, such as this one in a March 12, 1989 episode of Family Ties, which featured a conservative Reaganite son and a liberal ex-hippie father who worked at the local PBS station. “Your Dad and I are producing a documentary comparing Reagan’s presidency to medieval Europe’s bubonic plague,” said a co-worker. Dad interjected: “Nine out of ten people prefer the plague.” In the years after Reagan left the White House, some stars were at least that harsh — and they weren’t joking.

■ “Given the things I said about Reagan — that he’s a criminal who used the Constitution as toilet paper — it wouldn’t surprise me if my phone was tapped.”
— Actor John Cusack in the June 1989 issue of Premiere magazine.

■ “Just how qualified, how aware is Ronald Reagan about what is going on in the American films today? He has such a dim notion of reality, how much of a hold does he have on fantasy? Out of touch as he is, it’s a reasonable bet he would think Woody Allen’s Crime and Misdemeanors is a documentary about his eight years in office.”
— Larry Gelbart, creator of M*A*S*H, in a New York Times op-ed, November 6, 1989.

■ “This drug thing that we’re going through now is a legacy of the Reagan years..They steal from the poor and give to the rich. That’s the Reagan years.”
— Actor Eric Bogosian on the MTV special Decade, December 13, 1989.

■ “I was 12 years old. Children in junior high school thought [Reagan] was going to drop a bomb. During the 1981 assassination attempt, the news came over the school intercom. Here in the ghetto everybody clapped. I clapped.... At 12 years old I already had a con-tempt for fascist politics. He was more of a monster than I could imagine at 12 years old.”
Boyz n the Hood director John Singleton in the September 1993 Playboy.

■ “I grew up in Los Angeles, in the inner city — you never saw drugs or drive-bys or homeless people or anything like that. All the social programs that were cut as a result of Reagan coming into office and greed just became a hobby....I remember watching...him say people in America who are homeless are homeless because they want to be. That seemed to be one of the most — and I was a kid — I knew how cruel that was and I would never, you know, ascribe any level of greatness to somebody who would say, you know, if somebody’s hungry in America it’s because they’re on a diet. Like that, to me, made greedy white men feel good about being greedy white men. He was the kind of the Moses of leading them to feeling good about being greedy white men. So to me he wasn’t a great man.”
— Comedian and former CNN host D. L. Hughley on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, June 5, 2009. [MP3 Audio]