Ronald Reagan’s Son Has This Advice for Donald Trump: "Quit Looking for Applause and Start Looking for Votes"
Yet the son of President Ronald Reagan is supporting the GOP candidate as he discusses John Hinckley Jr., Bill O'Reilly and sexual abuse with THR: "My sister Maureen and I are the only people ever born and raised in a family with an Academy Award-winning actress and a president of the United States. Nobody else has had that life."
Michael Reagan, the son of Ronald Reagan and actress Jane Wyman, is a writer and former radio talk-show host. The conservative activist, 71, spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the presidential race, the recent release of the man who tried to kill his father, accusations that his dad suffered from Alzheimer’s while president and the accuracy of Bill O'Reilly's Killing Reagan. See video of O'Reilly sparring with George Will over the Alzheimer's controversy below.
Are you supporting Donald Trump?
(Laughs). Yes. I’m supporting him with reservations. Does he have what it takes to sit down with world leaders? You can’t treat them like you treat Jeb Bush.
So are you officially endorsing Trump?
Well, I’m voting for him over Hillary Clinton. But I would like to see the Libertarians be allowed into the debate. Between the three major parties, the Libertarians are the only adults in the room.
So it sounds like you’re stopping short of an endorsement.
I’m voting for him, but he’s running a terrible campaign, and everyone sees that. In lieu of him asking me for ideas — I tweet my thoughts everyday and I catch hell from social media — but I’m just trying to help him get to the next level.
You catch hell from his supporters?
Oh, yes. The people who support Trump on social media are psychotic.
Give me an example.
They attack my birthright. “How dare you! You’re not even a real Reagan! You were adopted!” They forget where I was for 50 years of my life. I’m the one Ronald Reagan called to fire Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, John Sears and Charlie Black. People think when your parents are so infamous you’ve never done anything.
Why do you say “infamous?”
Because my sister Maureen and I are the only people ever born and raised in a family with an Academy Award-winning actress and a president of the United States. Nobody else has had that life.
What does Donald Trump have in common with Ronald Reagan?
Nothing at all? Not one thing?
Well, they’re both males. But I’m tired of people equating Trump to Ronald Reagan. If Ronald Reagan acted like Donald Trump, Nancy would have never married him. We’re not going to find another Ronald Reagan. Remember, it was Ronald Reagan who was first saying “make America great again,” not Donald Trump.
Is the media covering Trump fairly?
No, but they never covered Ronald Reagan fairly, either. Conservatives gripe and bitch about the mainstream media, but that’s not new news. You have to find your way around them with a great message. Ronald Reagan had that great message. But Donald Trump would be better off if, really, seriously, they locked him in a closet until Nov. 9 and let his kids campaign for him.
Did your dad complain of specific members of the media?
We talked about it, but he always attacked them in a fun way. I’m not surprised that a liberal media supports a liberal candidate.
He’s not stupid. He’s a great business man, but business and politics are two different animals. Martin Sheen and the others are great actors, but I think they’re stupid for the way they think! Everything they want to be put into place is on display already. Look at Detroit, run by Democrats. Look at California, it’s a mess, run by Democrats. What have Democrats done to make things better? Things are in decline in this state.
Do you think California will ever have another Republican governor.
No. Basically, there’s no Republican party in this state. It hides under a rock. If you can’t find somebody to run for governor, you’ve got problems. I was having lunch with Rep. Brad Sherman, who has been a great help to me on issues like sexual abuse and human trafficking, and he asked if I knew any Republicans who would run against him for Congress. I asked him why, and he said he can’t raise money, do town-halls, or anything else unless someone is running against him.
What’s wrong with a President Hillary Clinton?
What’s not wrong with Hillary Clinton? No one can put their finger on anything she actually accomplished. All right, she got elected senator twice, but what did she do for the state of New York? This whole thing has been a process to reach the presidency. The foreign policy under her as secretary of state has been abysmal. She is a trainwreck when it comes to international policy and keeping America safe.
There are a few movies in the works about your dad. Are you participating in any of them?
No. It’s interesting, people make movies or write books about my dad but never call any members of the family to find out the backstories.
Did Bill O’Reilly talk to you about his book and TV movie, Killing Reagan?
Did you read the book?
No. I lived it. People think I read books about Ronald Reagan, but I don’t read political books; I read murder mysteries. I know O’Reilly said in the book that my father didn’t vote for Gerald Ford, but that’s just not true. My dad would tell people he wasn’t voting for him because Nancy didn’t want him to, and he wasn’t about to have a full-fledge war over the election with his wife. He didn’t want to sleep on the couch.
O’Reilly and George Will had an argument about whether your dad had Alzheimer's while still in office. You see it?
No, but it’s really interesting. Look at the things he accomplished, with the Soviets and the Berlin Wall. If it’s true, then all our presidents should go into office with Alzheimer’s.
John Hinckley Jr., the man who shot your dad, was released. What do you think about that?
I have no problem with him going free. This has been 20 years in the making. Remember, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and because of that the laws changed. If he did the same thing today, he’d be in jail the rest of his life. The reality is, my father forgave Hinckley. In fact, he wanted to see Hinckley, but Hinckley’s doctors thought it was a bad idea.
Do you have any desire to see him?
If he wanted to see me, I’d see him. But, you know, all my father wanted from the family was for them to buy him a new suit. It was a brand new suit he was wearing that day, and they cut it off of him and threw it in a corner.
He bought his own suits? The taxpayers didn’t buy them for him?
He bought his own clothes.
Did you ever talk to Jodie Foster about this stuff? Any interest in speaking to the various players in this drama at all?
No. No reason to. It’s what it was. Was I angry at the time? Yes. I asked Mike Lute, my agent in charge that day, “How the hell can you guys allow this to happen with so many Secret Service agents around my father?” He said, “Michael, it’s real simple: we train to protect your father and you and others, but what we can never train enough for, is for the crazies.”
Was there any time you needed the security you were provided as the son of a president?
Well, sometimes they wouldn’t tell me what they were doing. But when people would come into my backyard, they’d be arrested and taken out.
So, in light of Hinckley shooting your dad, what are your thoughts on gun control?
Gun control doesn’t solve these problems. I told my liberal friend who thinks clips shouldn’t hold 10 rounds, “You’re not arguing for gun control, you’re arguing for death control. So you’re OK with seven dead but not 10 dead? OK, you choose the seven that should die.” The Brady Bill would not have stopped Hinckley from doing what he did.
You ever talk politics with Patti Davis and Ron Reagan Jr.?
We don’t talk. But I don’t have to, because I keep reading in the news that we disagree on every issue.
When was the last time you spoke to them?
The reading of my dad’s will — and my kids saw them at Nancy’s funeral. But we have nothing in common, except we share the same father. I was Jane’s son. They’d say the same thing: I don’t have a relationship with them, they don’t have one with me. It’s always been that way.
Any more acting in your future?
No. I did a game show and about six episodes of Falcon Crest. I got home one day and my mom called me and said, “I need a concierge. Put on a suit and come on over.” So I did. I played a concierge at a spa. It was kind of cool acting with my mother, but I can’t act. I’m terrible.
What are you doing nowadays?
I have the Reagan Legacy Foundation: We opened a Reagan exhibit at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and we just dedicated a Ronald Reagan conference center in Normandy. We have a scholarship program, and we produced a documentary film about D-Day and Ste. Mere-Eglise, France. If you’ve ever seen The Longest Day, Red Buttons is hanging from a church steeple in a parachute at Ste. Mere-Eglise.
Tell me about your experiencing sexual abuse.
It was a day camp counselor in Beverly Hills. He died when he was 83.
Did you accuse him before he died?
No. Kids don’t. Nobody understands it. I didn’t tell my family until 1987. Kids who say they’ve been sexually abused, it takes seven times before the first person listens. I was 8. It’s not in your lexicon. You’re scared to death. It takes everything good in your life and in your heart and throws it out the window. Most become alcoholics or abusers themselves. Death is an option, and it only takes one time. A lot of us commit suicide. And when you read about a sexual abuser, the average number of kids they’ve abused is 150 in their lifetimes.
Well, can we end on a happier note, here?
Hey, you’re the one asking the questions. But things are great now. I’ve got a granddaughter, Marilyn, I’ve got my son happily married, my daughter teaching school, my wife running her travel business and I’m raising money for our scholarship program.
Give me a prediction for the election. Who will win?
If things don’t change, Hillary.
What’s your best advice for Donald Trump?
Quit looking for applause and start looking for votes.