During his time in office, Ronald Reagan was repeatedly named one of the most respected men in the world. In fact, Gallup’s annual list of the most admired people put Reagan at the top of the list every single year that he was in office. Reagan trails only John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln in terms of his overall popularity, making him the most popular American president in history to finish a second term. In the years since Reagan’s exit from public life, he has been deified by the Republican Party as the end all, be all of GOP success.
On the flip side of that coin, Ronald Reagan’s life has also yielded incredible scrutiny that not only casts some doubt on Reagan’s legacy but gives Reagan’s entire biography a weird tone. It seems the man’s professional career was marked with several strange or unsettling moments that just might make you wonder how he’s remained so immensely popular. Here are some weird facts about Reagan that might change how you see him.
In 1947’s That Hagen Girl, 36-year-old Ronald Reagan was semi-forced to kiss Shirley Temple on screen, in spite of the fact that he was nearly seventeen years her senior. In his defense, Reagan reportedly advocated that his character end up with Temple’s teacher, but he was shut down by the film’s director, who had a teenaged girlfriend and “wanted to make a point.”
As a result, Reagan became the first star to plant one on childhood starlet Shirley Temple. The movie subsequently bombed hard as audiences weren’t exactly cool with an old man trying to paw some barely-of-age girl.
No doubt the man who shot Ronald Reagan, John Hinckley, Jr., was unhinged before he caught Martin Scorsese’s gritty “avenging angel” drama Taxi Driver, but it was Hinckley’s viewing of the film in 1976 that historians agree sent him down the path to his assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981.
Taxi Driver kickstarted Hinckley’s obsession with Jodie Foster and his delusional imitation of Travis Bickle, the film’s cracked hero. Sure, Taxi Driver is f*cking brilliant, but most people can agree that it’s not exactly the perfect movie to use as a model for your life.
Anyway, Hinckley’s obsession with the film led him to stalk a number of people in addition to Foster. He considered shooting Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy before he settled on Reagan. Thankfully for the newly elected President, Hinckley was a terrible shot. In fact, he never actually hit the President; Reagan himself was only wounded when a bullet ricocheted off his limo and into his chest.
Reagan’s relationship with his wife, Nancy, was world-famous. In fact, Reagan himself was so enamored of his second wife that he even gravitated to reporters who were wearing the First Lady’s favorite color, red.
Reagan reportedly once called on a reporter, saying, “Now, Helen, I know that Nancy upstairs would die — she’s watching on television — if I didn't call on you in that pretty red dress.” That kind of language wasn’t considered a big deal for the Gipper.
The favoritism Reagan showed reporters decked out in red was so well known that several women adopted the color during their time working as reporters in the White House.
So, while he does get credit for speaking out about police abuse and the spread of fascism prior to his political career, when it came time to put his money where his mouth was, Reagan falls pretty short, especially when it came time to support the Civil Rights Movement.
Reagan himself actually went on record opposing every major piece of civil rights legislation adopted by Congress in the 1960s, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act. While he was President, he opposed the extension of the Voting Rights Act, vetoed the Civil Rights Restoration Act, and supported schools that discriminated on the basis of race.
Oh, he also refused to support sanctions against the South African regime that was imposing apartheid.