Ronald Reagan’s Daughter Weighs In On His Racist ‘Monkeys’ Comment

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A young Patti Reagan and Ronald Reagan

There is no defense, no ratio­nal­iza­tion, no suit­able expla­na­tion for what my father said on that taped phone con­ver­sa­tion,” Patti Davis wrote in The Washington Post.

The daugh­ter of for­mer President Ronald Reagan pub­lished an op-ed in The Washington Post on Thursday con­demn­ing her late father’s recent­ly uncov­ered racist remarks and ask­ing the pub­lic to for­give him. “There is no defense, no ratio­nal­iza­tion, no suit­able expla­na­tion for what my father said on that taped phone con­ver­sa­tion,” Patti Davis wrote about the new­ly released record­ing pub­lished Tuesday by The Atlantic.

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Davis

The National Archives recent­ly released audio of a pri­vate phone call from 1971 between Reagan, then the Republican gov­er­nor of California, and then-President Richard Nixon. Reagan called United Nations del­e­gates from African coun­tries “mon­keys” in the record­ing, report­ed­ly refer­ring to Tanzanian del­e­gates danc­ing after the U.N. vot­ed to rec­og­nize the People’s Republic of China, which Reagan opposed.

To see those, those mon­keys from those African coun­tries,” he told Nixon in the audio. “Damn them, they’re still uncom­fort­able wear­ing shoes.” Davis, who has crit­i­cized the Republican Party under the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, wrote Thursday about moments in her child­hood when she said her father pushed back against instances of racism and big­otry, claim­ing that he always taught his fam­i­ly to call out tox­ic beliefs. “But the words he used in his con­ver­sa­tion with Nixon can­not be inter­pret­ed as any­thing but ugli­ness. That’s what makes this so painful,” she wrote. “Legacies are com­pli­cat­ed, though, and for peo­ple to be judged fair­ly, the land­scape of a life­time has to be looked at.”

Though Davis said Reagan’s racist com­ment was an “aber­ra­tion,” the for­mer pres­i­dent, who died in 2004, has been crit­i­cized before for poli­cies and promis­es root­ed in racism. During his guber­na­to­r­i­al cam­paign in 1966, Reagan said, “If an indi­vid­ual wants to dis­crim­i­nate against Negroes or oth­ers in sell­ing or rent­ing his house, it is his right to do so.” Reagan is also cred­it­ed with pro­mot­ing the “wel­fare queen” stereo­type, which paints black women as peo­ple who abuse tax­pay­er mon­ey for lazy lifestyles.

Legislation that dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly hurt mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties also laid the ground­work for Reagan’s “War on Drugs.” The for­mer pres­i­dent also blocked an anti-apartheid bill to impose sanc­tions on South Africa; the House vot­ed to over­ride his veto. Still, Davis wrote that while she tries to for­give her father for his racist remarks, her hope is that “oth­ers will for­give my father for words that should nev­er have been uttered in any con­ver­sa­tion.”