Tags: donaldson | dui | arrest | reagan

What Would Reagan Say About Sam Donaldson’s Arrest for DUI?

Thursday, 20 Dec 2012 11:59 AM

By Dale Eisinger

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If he was alive to hear the news that ABC News veteran Sam Donaldson was arrested for drunk driving, former President Ronald Reagan would probably pause, just smile and nod his head, and say, “Well …”

Donaldson, 78, was charged with DUI on Dec. 1 in Lewes, Del.

Donaldson might be best known for his time as a White House correspondent, twice holding the title of chief white House correspondent.

Particularly during the Reagan administration, Donaldson was known for his tough questioning and unrelenting manner, often shouting questions at the president. Despite what was perceived as an antagonistic relationship, Donaldson had a strange affection for Reagan.

"People ask me about my relationship with President Reagan. I say it was a case of two 'hams' discovering each other. Only I played the 'straight man' and he always had the last word,” Donaldson once said in an interview.

Reagan was famous for his wit and missed no opportunity to banter with Donaldson.

In a famous interaction at a press conference, the reporter sternly asked Reagan, “Mr. President, in talking about the continuing recession tonight you have blamed the mistakes of the past and you have blamed the Congress. Does any of the blame belong to you?” Reagan responded, “Yes because for many years I was a Democrat.”

Donaldson often tailed Reagan throughout his reporting career. He was even present when an assassination attempt was made on Reagan’s life. Donaldson remarked on the president’s composure during the incident.

“On March 30, 1981, I was standing 5 feet away from John Hinckley when he shot Reagan,” Donaldson wrote in an op-ed for USA Today. “From the moment Reagan hitched up his pants as he got out of his limousine at the hospital emergency room — he always wanted to look neat in public, explained aide Michael Deaver— to the moment he left the hospital, he handled the shooting in a heroic manner. In fact, when a reporter asked what he would do when he got back to the White House, he replied matter-of-factly, ‘Sit down.’”

Donaldson was even congenial with First Lady Nancy Reagan. In 1983, around President Reagan’s birthday, the first lady brought a birthday cake into a press conference where Donaldson was. After the press corps sang happy birthday to the president, Donaldson continued asking questions of the couple, to which the first lady eventually replied: “How would you like a piece of cake, Sam?”

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