Tags: reagan | hollywood | threat | politics

Michael Reagan: A Threat to Hollywood Launched Dad's Political Career

By    |   Thursday, 18 December 2014 11:13 PM

Kim Jong-un isn’t the only strongman to threaten Hollywood and win. He isn’t even the most recent.

A new biography of my father — “The Reagan Enigma: 1964-1980” by Democrat apparatchik Thomas C. Reed — finally picks up on a story that I’ve been telling for years. Reed relates how JFK’s younger brother, Bobby Kennedy, who just happened to be Attorney General, made General Electric Theater an offer they couldn’t refuse.

As host of the program, my father had been traveling around the country speaking at General Electric plants. He stressed the importance of individual freedom and warned how JFK’s big government programs threatened it.

Bobby said that if Ronald Reagan wasn’t fired as the host of the program, GE would be in danger of having its federal contracts canceled.

I remember having dinner with my dad, Nancy and Maureen the Sunday after that call when he dropped the bombshell, “Michael, I lost my job today, I learned that from Ralph Cordiner, the chairman of General Electric, that Bobby Kennedy called and threatened contract cancellations if they don't get me off the air.”

Seventy–two hours later dad was out of a job and General Electric Theater was off the air.

The firing was the final step in an escalation of Kennedy government harassment that was much like the Obama administration used the IRS to target critics. It began with a summons for my father to appear before a grand jury in Los Angeles to investigate the Screen Actors Guild, where he was once president. After his appearance there it was audit time and the IRS went through his tax returns with a microscope. And finally, the phone call that attempted to end his career and ability to earn a living.

Kennedy, however, was eventually hoisted on his own petard.

Prior to being fired, Dad had never expressed much interest in politics, but after seeing the power of government to damage and abuse when in the wrong hands, he could no longer stay on the sidelines. His speech for Barry Goldwater in 1964 put him on Republican radar and made it possible for dad to run and win the governorship of California.

It was during his term as governor that Bobby Kennedy came face to face with his mistake. My father and Bobby met in what was termed the Telestar debate because satellites made it possible. Dad was in California and according to Reed, Kennedy was somewhere in the east. Evidently, even then arrogance was a characteristic of Democrat leadership, because Kennedy didn’t do much preparation before the encounter.

That was a mistake.

As the National Review remembered in 2007: The late historian David Halberstam acknowledged that "the general consensus" was that "Reagan ... destroyed him."

Lou Cannon, in a 1969 book on Reagan and California assemblyman Jesse Unruh, agreed, "Reagan clearly bested Kennedy."

Another of Reagan's first biographers, Joseph Lewis, recorded that the "tanned and relaxed" Reagan "talked easily and precisely without a hint of uncertainty or hostility" and "deflated" the "anguished" Kennedy, who "gulped in restrained agony" when answering questions." Kennedy, said Lewis, "looked as if he had stumbled into a minefield."

Kennedy though, was petty to the end. Since this was decades before YouTube, my father asked CBS for copies of the video from the debate to use in commercials for his presidential run. Kennedy evidently made CBS the same offer he made General Electric Theater and dad never received any copies of the video he made possible.

It’s not surprising that my father took what appeared to be disaster and turned it to his advantage and the left’s disadvantage. He truly was a grown–up version of the boy in the joke he loved to tell.

He knew somewhere in that pile of horse manure he was going to find a pony.


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Kim Jong-un isn't the only strongman to threaten Hollywood and win. He isn't even the most recent. A new biography of my father - "The Reagan Enigma: 1964-1980" by Democrat apparatchik Thomas C. Reed - finally picks up on a story that I've been telling for years. Reed...
reagan, hollywood, threat, politics
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2014-13-18
Thursday, 18 December 2014 11:13 PM
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