Craig Shirley

To disgraced Reagan biographer Edmund Morris, there is not just one myth about Reagan. He found five for the Post on everything from his acting ability to him somehow being unkind to individuals. Even his compliments are only backhanded, as he draws an unfavorable contrast to Jimmy Carter's "intellect."

But Morris never asked Ed Meese or Peter Hannaford or Jim Baker or the hundreds of others who met recently in Simi Valley and Santa Barbara to celebrate the Gipper's birthday, many of whom had their own stories of Reagan's personal kindnesses, including this author.

Morris as much as says Reagan was a lousy actor but a 1940 Warner Brothers poll of audiences had him second only to Errol Flynn as their most favorite actor. In America, we have traditionally trusted the marketplace to determine what is good and not good.

On the other hand, not everybody who speaks with a British accent is an intellectual.

Morris continues to invent history, implying in his Post piece that Reagan either did not know---or was angry---that Morris had tracked down the Gipper's old girlfriend, Margaret Cleaver. But in fact, Reagan wrote extensively, warmly and frankly about Miss Cleaver in his autobiography, An American Life. Reagan's accounting of his own life is presumed to be slightly more accurate than Morris's.

All in all, the Post's coverage of Reagan played to mostly to type, pretty much what the Gipper got from the paper all of his career before, during and after the White House.

In the 1980's, Nancy Reagan used to tell a joke at the expense of the Post for playing to type. She told friends, "How would the Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal all report on the end of the world? The headline in the Times would say, 'World Ends Tomorrow! See Page A37 for details.' The Journal would report, 'World Ends, Stocks Plunge!'

"And the Post headline would report, 'World Ends Tomorrow! Poor and Minorities Hardest Hit!'"

Conservatives knew Ronald Reagan. He was a friend of theirs. And the Washington Post's coverage of the Gipper is not the Ronald Reagan they remember.


Craig Shirley

Craig Shirley is a Reagan biographer, a presidential historian and Chairman of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs. His firm is assisting Scott Walker’s presidential campaign.


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