Transcript: Tearing Down Ronald Reagan?

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, October 21, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.


SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Next month, CBS will air a two-part miniseries called "The Reagans." Supporters of the former president, Ronald Reagan (search), are upset that this series portrays him in a negative light. But the producers say they were trying to tell a historically accurate story that included the good and the bad.

So does the miniseries fairly represent the truth, or was this film filmed through a liberal lens?

Joining us now, the son of the former president, our good friend, Michael Reagan. Also joining us, also a good friend, FNC political analyst Susan Estrich is with us.

Michael, first of all, your father took us out of the malaise factor of Jimmy Carter (search). Double-digit inflation, interest rates out of control, the malaise factor. And your dad doubled the revenues to the federal government and gave us the longest period of peacetime economic growth in the country's history.

That's not mentioned. That's not even in there.

MICHAEL REAGAN, RONALD REAGAN'S SON: You won't see that on CBS. That will not be on CBS. It will be here on FOX, fair and balanced, but it certainly won't be on CBS in November, Sean. I think everybody knows that.

And when you really think about it, CBS, Hollywood putting together a miniseries on my father, you think it would be positive in any way at all? No. And of course, what's coming out now, "New York Times" article today, there will be more tomorrow, with how they're depicting my father in a negative way. Just proves the point that Hollywood has always hated Ronald Reagan.

HANNITY: You know, Michael, I love your dad, you know that. He's the greatest voice of conservatism in the last 30 years in this country, and just he really made everybody in this country feel good about things.

But the fact that, you know, they would focus in, "on moments of forgetfulness." And not only do they not focus on the great economic role and they sort of diminish his role in ending the Cold War (search). But then they have this scene that they just made up out of nowhere where Reagan says to Nancy, "They that live in sin shall die in sin." Saying your father said that about the AIDS (search) crisis, which he never said.

REAGAN: Oh, absolutely right. It just shows the agenda of what we're talking about. When you go and you find out what James Brolin had said, that he hoped people would see this. We'll question our leaders even more so.

Ms. Davis, who of course, depicts Nancy says that America, hopefully, they'll learn from this where they've gone wrong since the 1907's. This is all about the agenda of dismantling my father, dismantling the conservative movement and tearing down Ronald Reagan as we go into an election year.

HANNITY: You know, Susan, I guess the equivalent would be 10 years, 20 years from now, we'll do the Bill Clinton story. All they'll focus on is Monica Lewinsky. That wouldn't be fair either, right?

SUSAN ESTRICH, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: That would never happen on shows like yours, Sean. I know.

HANNITY: Maybe on my show, but...

ESTRICH: But I would never go on a network or television that would do nothing but focus on Monica Lewinsky.

Look, I mean, I love Michael. You know, I disagreed with President Reagan's policies but I would not want to see him depicted unfairly. CBS is in business to make money. It certainly has no interest in being unfair here. I think we should be...

HANNITY: But they want to make -- but alienate every conservative?

ESTRICH: I mean, that would be really stupid, now, wouldn't it? So let's see what they do. I think neither Michael nor I have actually seen the show. That's, you know, like I'm one of those law professors who likes to read an opinion before I attack it.

HANNITY: Well, they have the script out though. This is where they intend to go, as of now.

ESTRICH: But you know, scripts change, as any director will tell you. The script and the actual movie are two different things.

HANNITY: Well, it's not starting out very good.

ESTRICH: Well, maybe they'll listen to Michael and say...

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: They're probably watching "HANNITY & COLMES" right now. Michael, let me ask you a question.

ESTRICH: Hey, Alan, congratulations on your book.

COLMES: Thank you.

ESTRICH: We challenge liberals to buy as many books as conservatives.

COLMES: That's very kind of you. Liberals, you know...

HANNITY: Trying to de-Hannitize America.

COLMES: Those who can afford it. Those who can't should go to the public library, which is hopefully well funded.

ESTRICH: No, no, no! Buy it.

HANNITY: They should buy it, Alan.

COLMES: But they should buy it if you can. Michael, let me go to you.

ESTRICH: It doesn't work.

COLMES: Thank you, Susan. Thank you for the plug. I'll be a guest later on tonight on "HANNITY & COLMES," and on my own radio show, I'll be a guest.

Michael, let me ask you this. Have you seen the script; have you seen the "teleflick" yet?

REAGAN: No, I have not. But I certainly trust what is being reported on it, because I received a call. Let me just tell you, I received a call over the weekend, and I could not get to the reporter on the call, mainly because I was at the game in South Bend, Indiana. Which was a great place to be.

ESTRICH: I like this topic.

REAGAN: By the way, your team beat us badly on the weekend.

COLMES: Michael, let's be fair and balanced about what's being reported. What's been reported here is the movie shows some of those negative scenes about your dad, who was a controversial and is a controversial figure.

But the movie shows, according to press reports, a devoted husband. They accept his story that he knew nothing of the illegal diversion of funds during the Iran/Contra scandal, gives him credit for ending the Cold War, paints him as a moral man who stood up to his advisers when they didn't like what they told him. A man who loved his wife.

Why did you leave that out in the rundown of the things it says about your father?

REAGAN: Because I knew you'd get to it, Alan, you would get to it sooner or later in this interview.

COLMES: But that's the fair and balanced view, right? That's what they say.

REAGAN: Yes. Isn't that wonderful? But when you're setting your agenda, to tick off one segment of the population, the gay community when you're going into an election year, that becomes an agenda. To put those words in my father's mouth, that somehow he believes sinners should die in the sin that they're in, is absolutely outrageous.

ESTRICH: I agree with you.

COLMES: I agree with you.

ESTRICH: I agree with you, that's wrong. I mean, that is absolutely wrong and irresponsible. And I don't agree with it when "The L.A. Times" does it, and I don't agree with it when entertainment groups do it.

And I think we've got to be careful whether it's JFK or a Reagan movie. I mean, there will be people who will watch this movie, who never saw a news show about Ronald Reagan, who were not born when Ronald Reagan was president, who will learn about him watching this and it's wrong.

COLMES: But the point is, Michael, it's not a one-sided view. They show him a champion of the Cold War. They show him a moral man, loved his wife. The things I just mentioned, except that his position on Iran/Contra. I think that's huge in terms of painting a fair and balanced view of your dad.

REAGAN: Trust me, Alan, what they do with that line on AIDS is they take away the heart of Ronald Reagan. Because this is the man with the greatest and biggest heart that you've ever met in politics.

For example, will they cover the fact that when my father became president of the United States, the first act he did was call Jimmy Carter on the day my father was inaugurated and offer him Air Force One to go wish those hostages home? No, they won't talk about this.

COLMES: No, we don't know that. But clearly, this is a warts and all biography.

Edmund Morris (search), Michael, in his authorized biography, says of your father that he once -- And tell me if this is true. I don't know. This has been reported. Edmund Morris said your father once said of AIDS, maybe the Lord brought down this plague because illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments.

You've heard that reported?

REAGAN: I have heard that reported.

COLMES: Edmund Morris has reported that.

REAGAN: And there's a million people who probably said the very same thing. But there's a big difference between saying that and making the statement that those that live in sin should absolutely die in sin.

And then, as the movie depicts, just walk away from it. First of all, the conversation never took place. And the fact is, that the person that wrote that even says there is nothing that proves that that conversation ever took place.

People will remember that and they'll remember Ronald Reagan doesn't have heart, and Ronald Reagan has a great loving heart for America and for mankind.

HANNITY: That's the dark side of this, Michael, you're absolutely right.

COLMES: Michael, you are played in this "bio-pic" by an actor by the name of Tom Barnett. Do you know who he is; have you seen his work?

REAGAN: No idea who he is. No idea.

COLMES: It's got to be interesting to see how somebody...

REAGAN: Nobody called the Reagan family, Alan. Nobody called us and said, "Hey, by the way I'm depicting you. Why don't you tell us about yourself?" Nobody called the Reagan family members to get any ideas.

COLMES: Susan?

ESTRICH: I think that this is this weird world in which we're operating here, where it's very dangerous because there's no consensus as to what the rules should be. I mean, at least in newspapers and in -- in the news media there is some general consensus that you at least attempt to tell the truth. I mean, it doesn't always apply, but you're at least attempting to tell the truth.

Here we are, we're using real people's names: Ronald Reagan. Nancy Reagan.

COLMES: Right. Well, we don't know what it says yet in every case. We don't see -- we haven't seen the whole thing.

ESTRICH: But in this conversation that is conceded never to have taken place. I mean, how can you create a conversation that never happened about a real-world subject with people who really did exist? I mean, what rules govern this medium? I think it's...

COLMES: Well, it happens all the time, that poetic license is taken. But Michael, are you going to use this as an excuse to rail against what you call the Hollywood left? You have said the Hollywood left has been hijacking the motion picture industry and the entertainment industry. And yet you have Arnold and his supporters...

REAGAN: That's not breaking news, Alan.

COLMES: All I ever see in the media. Arnold Schwarzenegger supported by all these Hollywood stars. We've had Bo Derek on this show. We've had Ron Silver supporting Bush. We've had star after -- Bo Derek, Kathy Ireland -- star after star on this show. I don't know that it's so skewed to the left, as you claim.

REAGAN: But they're not running Hollywood, Alan. They're not running Hollywood. Like you're not running FOX. They're not running Hollywood, trust me. They are actors in Hollywood. Ronald Reagan gave these people nine years.

ESTRICH: ... profits...

REAGAN: He was elected nine times, to the presidency of Screen Actors Guild (search). He also gave them residuals. He's done so much for Hollywood, and they have always attacked him.

HANNITY: I want to emphasize one point here. Alan said there will be positive aspects that are highlighted. But they're ignoring one of the largest accomplishments, which is the great economic recovery that he was responsible for, focusing in on tax cuts, doubling revenue, dropping the top marginal rates 90 to 28 percent.

And in the meantime, then they make him, as you point out, to be a monster with this horrible comment that he never uttered. And I think it's clearly -- it has a political agenda here.

REAGAN: It does the fact agenda, the fact that he wasn't running his own White House, he was forgetful, Nancy was in charge of everything, based on astrology, which is so untrue. But that's what they believe. They don't want to believe that Ronald Reagan was the man that we know him to be, I know him to be.

They want to believe that he was some kind of ogre. And if we could bring him down, maybe we could bring down the Republican Party, we could bring down conservatism and once again we can lead the country.

ESTRICH: Come on. Michael if one miniseries could do that, don't you think Democrats would be...

REAGAN: Well, it's not going to do it. But that's what they said.

HANNITY: Susan, the next one will be "Hannity, His life and Times." That's next.

ESTRICH: I'll produce it. "Hannity, A Day in the Life," you know?

HANNITY: Right. We'll, you'll be very bored.

ESTRICH: Hannity, the suave, smooth, conservative.

HANNITY: Well, you know, listen. I didn't come out with a new book today.

REAGAN: CBS and Ronald Reagan, there's a twosome.

HANNITY: No, but I've got to tell you here. Your dad -- you know one of things about your dad, Michael, is even those that disagreed with him, Tip O'Neill -- "Well, is it after 6 p.m."?

ESTRICH: Those were better days, Sean.

HANNITY: And he had this ability to reach out. Remember, for the better part of this presidency, he did not have both houses of Congress. He never had the House of Representatives in all the time he was there.

REAGAN: I worry -- my worry, Sean, as I said earlier, about really the heart of Ronald Reagan been shown. While he was able to bring people together.

I doubt it will be shown what happened down in the Carolinas in 1976, when blind children wanted to ask him questions and my dad went into a trailer with them and ended up getting down on his knees and inviting the young kids to lay their hands on his face and feel his face, as they asked questions of him and he answered. I doubt that those kind of stories will come out, because it was the heart of Ronald Reagan that made him great and ultimately, allowed him to accomplish the things what he accomplished.

COLMES: We have to run. One quick question, Michael. How is your dad doing? How is he feeling?

REAGAN: He's comfortable. I mean, that's all you can say about the disease, Alan. He's comfortable. Nancy is there making sure he's comfortable. And all I can say is my dad, my family, we all need prayers.

COLMES: Michael, thank you. And Susan, thank you.

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