Recently unearthed recordings of former President Ronald Reagan calling Africans “monkeys” made the point that Trump is Reagan’s ideological heir harder to deny.
The October 1971 comments, which were revealed Tuesday by historian Tim Naftali in an article for The Atlantic, concerned Reagan’s anger that the United Nations voted to recognize the People’s Republic of China.
“Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did,” said Reagan to then-President Richard Nixon. “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!”
Nixon laughed—but took Reagan’s representation of the more racist members of the Republican Party seriously enough to bring the then-California governor’s concerns to his Secretary of State William Rogers:
“Tell me again how Donald Trump’s Republican party isn’t the Republican party you remember,” said Slate journalist Ashley Feinberg.
Historian Bob Spitz, whose years of research into the 40th president generated the book “Reagan: An American Journey,” told The Washington Post that he was stunned at the revelations.
“In all of my very careful research into his private papers, I never found an instance where I felt that Reagan was racist,” Spitz said.
Spitz wasn’t alone. The Never Trump group known as the Reagan Battalion, which regularly equates critics of Israel with anti-Semites and criticizes left-leaning Democrats for their embrace of “socialism,” refused on Wednesday to call Reagan’s decades-old comments racist despite this reporter’s repeated requests for clarification both on Twitter and in private messages.
Instead, the Reagan Battalion digressed into two rambling diatribes on communism and then accused critics of the former president of trying to divide Americans by describing Reagan’s remarks as racist.
“Our statement is out there for everyone to read, we understand that your life mission is to divide Americans along racial lines, we will never be part of your game,” the group told this reporter in a tweet. “We strive to make ours a better country for every American, regardless of skin color, religion, or race.”
The group did at one point on Wednesday acknowledge that Reagan’s remarks were “wrong.”
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