Two former U.S. senators who were close to Ronald Reagan are the latest of his associates to voice strong disagreement with his portrayal as racially insensitive in the new movie "The Butler."
Paul Laxalt, former Nevada senator often considered Reagan's closest political friend, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Richard Schweiker both weighed in strongly against any suggestion of racism on the part of their old friend during separate interviews with Newsmax this week.
"Ron Reagan was one of the most decent individuals -- in or out of politics -- I had the pleasure of meeting in my lifetime," said Laxalt, who knew Reagan since 1964, and was governor of Nevada while Reagan was governor of California. He was also the national chairman of Reagan's campaigns in 1976, 1980, and 1984.
As for the film's underscoring that President Reagan was opposed to sanctions against the white-minority government in South Africa, Laxalt recalled that "the situation in South Africa in the 1980s was complicated by our difficult relationship with the Soviets. Good people on both sides of the debate differed over the wisdom of imposing sanctions."
Laxalt added that "to suggest [Reagan] was somehow racially insensitive is wrong and unfair."
Schweiker, who served as secretary of health and human services during Reagan's first term, told Newsmax that "Ronald Reagan did not have a racist bone in his body. He served all of the people all of the time and, in so doing, did an outstanding job as president."
Laxalt noted a recent story in the Washington Post about Eugene Allen, the real-life butler to eight presidents who was the model for the movie character. The Post reported that "Allen acknowledged that he was especially fond of the Reagans, who invited him -- in real life and in the movie -- to a state dinner before he retired in 1986.
Laxalt and Schweiker, whom Reagan wanted as his running mate during his presidential bid at the 1976 Republican convention, follow other Reagan associates and aides who said the portrayal of Reagan and his wife Nancy as racially insensitive was inaccurate.
Ken Duberstein, Ronald Reagan's White House chief of staff, told Newsmax that the portrayal of the president as racially insensitive in the movie "The Butler" was "absolutely wrong."
"Ronald Reagan saw everybody as the same and was colorblind," Duberstein, who was Reagan's last chief of staff, said in an exclusive interview on Wednesday with Newsmax. "He accepted everyone for who they were and did not have a bad bone in his body."
"Look, I was Reagan's chief of staff and I'm a Jew from New York and General Powell was Reagan's national security adviser and he was a black from the South Bronx," Duberstein told Newsmax. "Doesn't that say it all?"
Former Attorney General Edwin Meese III told Newsmax on Monday that the portrayal of the Reagans as racially insensitive was not accurate, saying the true Ronald Reagan "treated everyone extremely well, including people who were in a position of assisting him in one way or another."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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