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Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 01/18/2011

Michael Reagan blasts brother Ron's new memoir

By Stephen Lowman

On the eve of the centenary of their father’s birth, Ronald Reagan’s sons are arguing over their late father’s mental health -- and the dispute is becoming increasing nasty.

Michael Reagan blasted his half brother Ron on Twitter over the weekend, calling him an “embarrassment” to the family and accusing him of trying to “sell out his father to sell books.”


The harsh words came after excerpts of Ron Reagan’s forthcoming memoir “My Father at 100” were published on Friday. In the book, Ron writes that his father exhibited signs of Alzheimer’s while he was in office.

"My heart sank as he floundered his way through his responses, fumbling with his notes, uncharacteristically lost for words. He looked tired and bewildered," Ron Reagan writes of the 1984 presidential debate between his father and Walter Mondale.

Ron Reagan’s position is controversial because the president’s doctors maintained that he only showed signs of the degenerative disorder after leaving office.

In his criticism of his brother, Michael Reagan wrote:

"Ron, my brother was an embarrassment to his father when he was alive and today he became an embarrassment to his mother."


This morning, in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning America," Ron countered that he had spoken with his mother and that she was "proud" of him.

Regarding his mother, Ron told Stephanopoulos: “She was worried about me. She said, ‘Are you all right?’ I said, ‘Yeah mom, I’m fine … but they are going to ask me what you think of the book. So what should I say to them?’ And she said, ‘You tell them that I’ve read it, I loved it, it made me cry, and I’m very proud of you.’ ”

Michael Reagan was adopted by Ronald Reagan and his first wife, Jane Wyman. Ron, the youngest of Reagan’s children, was born to the president’s second wife, Nancy.

Michael is a staunch conservative; Ron is a progressive liberal. Michael has also written a book, "The New Reagan Revolution: How Ronald Reagan's Principles Can Restore America's Greatness.”

Both books are being released today.

By Stephen Lowman  | January 18, 2011; 12:30 PM ET
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Sorry, I'm with Ron on this. His father's fumblings and hesitations were noticeable to anyone paying attention at the time. If you've ever had a family member with Alzheimer's it's clear there was some sort of dementia at play, whether Alzheimer's or senile dementia, perhaps a byproduct of the assassination attempt. Nancy's not upset with Ron, why should Michael be? Time to grow up, Michael.

Posted by: Floretta | January 18, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Ron needs his ass beat....and Michael should give it to him.

Posted by: mjandrews8 | January 18, 2011 1:45 PM | Report abuse

He didn't even remember he was President by the time he left office. Nancy had to stand behind him and whisper into his ear just so he could talk in public.

Posted by: thomasmc1957 | January 18, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Ronald Reagan was a great President, Leader and Husband to Nancy. His relationships with all his children are a little dicey to examine. However, Who cares when he had Alzheimers.
I happen to agree with Ron Reagan, I think he began to develop the disease probably earlier than the 1980s since this is a degenerative neurological disorder. Reagan's mother had it.

I remember my parents in 1986-1987 saying the same thing about him--he must have a form of dementia. Michael Reagan has made a cottage industry of selling his father as the Conservative Crusader that he and Limbaugh and Hannity and Palin push. However I think for him in his family it is dangerous.

If I were the adoptive son of the first marriage, which many people do not look to as the legitimate marriage of Ronald Reagan, I would be careful picking a public fight with Nancy's favorite kid.

Posted by: jmr1601 | January 18, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

"Ron, my brother was an embarrassment to his father when he was alive and today he became an embarrassment to his mother."

Ah, I see. You're mad at your brother for writing something embarrasing to your family. So, OF COURSE, your first reaction is to "tweet" an insult about your brother.

Oh, wait a minute! I forgot! This is your 21st century Republican Party; solving problems by insulting those that you disagree with.

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | January 18, 2011 2:03 PM | Report abuse

It's very sad to once again see Jane Wymann's kids and Nancy Kids play out in public "Daddy loved me best", although Michael and Maureen (rest her soul) have been clinging to the caricature that was Ronald Regan than Ron and Patti who seem to look at their father as human with all his greatness and flaws. Everyone I know whether they supported Regan or not suspected the symptoms were present when Regan held office. That does not tarnish Regan's legacy. Michael, you're jealous and you're being a bit hypocritical about who's trying to hawk a book.

Posted by: ibcmeir | January 18, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Given what we know about Alzheimer's, it is impossible to believe it had not begun many years before Reagan left the White House.

Michael Reagan is a professional Republican who has made a career out of capitalizing on his last name. He has a vested interest in this issue, and obviously has multiple issues with his half-brother. He is not a medical professional, and has no credibility on this subject whatsoever.

Posted by: Meridian1 | January 18, 2011 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Michael is in denial. He also seems to think is the only one allowed to say anything about Reagan. And it had better be favorable. It was obvious the President was in distress.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 18, 2011 3:04 PM | Report abuse

michael is not really Reagans son isn't he, he's an adoptee, worse than a b@st@ard.

Posted by: calif-joe | January 18, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

We embraced Reagan as the grandfather to trust after the tumultuous 60's but we didn't verify and we weere lead back to before the 20th century and our clocks still are running backward on Napoleonic Empire Time... time to wake up everyone this is the 21st century and our entire planet is about to catch fire...

Posted by: Wildthing1 | January 18, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Oh, I see. Michael is "staunch" (read dull) while Ron is "progressive" (read enlightened). There's an obvious use of language to create spin. Your bias is showing.

Posted by: ikins | January 18, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Is it really news that Reagan's mental capacities were diminished? Voodoo economics ring a bell? How about Iran-Contra? (Ollie North? Who's he? He was doing what?) The mythology around Reagan would be amusing were it not so embarrassing.

Posted by: Mountaineer87 | January 18, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

We embraced Reagan as the grandfather to trust after the tumultuous 60's but we didn't verify and we were lead back to before the 20th century and our clocks still are running backward on Napoleonic Empire Time... knock knock, youwho anyone there... time to wake up from the ideological dreams, this is the 21st century and our entire planet is about to catch fire...

Posted by: Wildthing1 | January 18, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Given what we know about Alzheimer's, it is impossible to believe it had not begun many years before Reagan left the White House.

Michael Reagan is a professional Republican who has made a career out of capitalizing on his last name. He has a vested interest in this issue, and obviously has multiple issues with his half-brother. He is not a medical professional, and has no credibility on this subject whatsoever.

Posted by: Meridian1 | January 18, 2011 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Maybe someone can ask Dr. Bill Frist to examine some old videotapes and make a diagnosis.

Posted by: Mountaineer87 | January 18, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Time is tocking to us and it is trying to tock us back to the future...

Posted by: Wildthing1 | January 18, 2011 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Time is tocking to us and it is trying to tock us back to the future... but it is also trying to tickle us while it is tocking...

Posted by: Wildthing1 | January 18, 2011 3:25 PM | Report abuse

This is going to drive the wingnuts even nuttier. I can just hear them now. Calling Ron every name in the book as if they knew his father better than he did.

Reagan was clueless for almost his entire second term. He's lucky he wasn't tried for treason. Olie took the bullet for him.

Posted by: strictly_liberal | January 18, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

This is news?

Leslie Stahl of 60 minutes revealed that she had an interview with Reagan during his second term where he was confused and nearly incoherent for a period and she walked away deeply concerned about his mental state.

She made this statement a number of years after his death.

Posted by: RickyGibson | January 18, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

We should name an airport for him.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 18, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

As some have hinted above, the only thing that kept Reagan's head above water in Iran-Contra was the fact that people believed him when he said he had no idea what his govt was doing.

Posted by: JenDray | January 18, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Consider the rambling, incoherent statements that Caroline Kennedy made when she was trying to be senator. Would you say she has Alzheimer's? Everyone is entitled to a bad night or bad performance without people projecting a diagnosis of Alzheimer's onto them.

Posted by: msulli4 | January 18, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Lou Cannon says that Reagan was the same when he left as when he entered. That does not answer the question does it? This is the same Lou Cannon who promised that Reagan would be able to work with the Democratic Congress as he did with the CA legislature. This is the same Regan who tear gassed students from copters as Gov.

I think everyone who has watched a parent with dementia rejects Reagan's instant amnesia. It is a long, slow, ambiguous process.

Is a naval doctor really going to take upon himself triggering a constitutional crisis by declaring Reagan was slipping (not gone) mentally?

Everyone knew Reagan lost it in the first debate against Mondale, just as Ron says. Unfortunately, in the 2nd debate, he memorized the scripted quip about Mondale's youth and inexperience and everyone dropped the issue.

According to Jeff Cohen, in her book "Reporting Live," former CBS White House correspondent Lesley Stahl writes that she and other reporters suspected that Reagan was "sinking into senility" years before he left office. She writes that White House aides "covered up his condition"-- and journalists chose not to pursue it.

Stahl describes a particularly unsettling encounter with Reagan in the summer of 1986: her "final meeting" with the President, typically a chance to ask a few parting questions for a "going-away story." But White House Press Secretary Larry Speakes made her promise not to ask anything.

Although she'd covered Reagan for years, the glazed-eyed and fogged-up President "didn't seem to know who I was," writes Stahl. For several moments as she talked to him in the Oval Office, a vacant Reagan barely seemed to realize anyone else was in the room. Meanwhile, Speakes was literally shouting instructions to the President, reminding him to give Stahl White House souvenirs.

Panicking at the thought of having to report on that night's news that "the president of the United States is a doddering space cadet," Stahl was relieved that Reagan soon reemerged into alertness, recognized her and chatted coherently with her husband, a screenwriter. "I had come that close to reporting that Reagan was senile." So she defaulted on her job to inform the public. That is why the press played the tape of him sleeping at the conference with the Pope; it allowed them to make the point without being explicit.

Watch his testimony on Iran Contra 1 year after leaving office. He remembers nothing. Kids know our parents did not fade that far that fast.

Remember the SNL skit where Reagan is portrayed as the Chinese-speaking mastermind of Iran Contra, who repeatedly interrupts his incisive briefing to pretend to be dottering when interrupted by girl scouts and Jimmy Stewart? It is funny exactly because viewers knew it was such a false image.

Ron will be hung out to dry, just like David "Taken to the woodshed" Stockman, for telling the truth that everyone knows.

Posted by: tidelandermdva | January 18, 2011 4:35 PM | Report abuse

so the real son of ronald and nancy reagan was an embarrassment to his parents. doubt it. a little bit jealous of the real son, eh, dude.

Posted by: joeblow111 | January 18, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

California Joe - I have four children, three of which are adopted. I have forgotten which one is unfortunate enough to carry my DNA. If I thought you were my neighbor after you called any of them a b@st@rd because they were adopted I would be tempted to buy a horse whip.

Posted by: sauerkraut | January 18, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Ron is simply admitting the truth about the health of his father. It is no shame to for Ron to admit that he noticed changes in his father and later realized that it was the beginning of Alzheimer's disease manifesting itself. This would be a rather common situation in families who's loved ones have gotten this illness.Alzheimer's disease is a progressive illness.
I suppose it is also not uncommon for some of the family members to deny that this was the case as brother Michael has done. Sometimes it is hard to admit that anything was wrong with a beloved parent.
I for one am grateful to Ron for the revelation he has made. The truth can't hurt Ronald Reagan's legacy but it does give some interesting perspective on the events of the Reagan presidency.

Posted by: OhMy | January 18, 2011 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Do not know what rock Michael was under in the 80's. Ron is totally correct. I was always amazed that in the press conferencewhen President Reagan would anwswer a lot of questions with the response of "I don't remember." I would think how could the POTUS answer a important question about the state of affairs of the government he was elected to run with "I don't remember". Michael should pull the transcripts of those press conferences - - then he can simply shut up.

Posted by: ddraper81 | January 18, 2011 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Looking back on it 22 years later, why would it be necessary to be so defensive about Reagan's medical condition? We've moved on, and it is hard to imagine the world being a dramatically different place had the Ronald Reagan with the physical and mental capabilities he had in 1966 been President of the United States in 1987-1988. Perhaps the more illustrative historical investigation might be a look at how the Executive Office of the President and the Cabinet evolved through the 1980s to compensate for Reagan's changes, if they indeed did occur. Although I would venture to say that the documents that would help answer those questions probably won't be available for another 30 years or so.

Posted by: Rob63 | January 18, 2011 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Mike needs to make some hay since he's getting up near retirement age and harvesting daddy's legacy is getting tougher every season.

Posted by: citizen625 | January 18, 2011 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Scary, that's probably why he approved the deregulation process that has sunked us into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Posted by: maldo16 | January 18, 2011 6:38 PM | Report abuse

That Regan had Alzheimers while he was president is old news. Maybe it wasn't talked about outright at the time, but it was something everyone knew. It was obvious when he talked to the press unscripted.

Posted by: retabroad | January 18, 2011 8:07 PM | Report abuse

They should name a world-class maze after Ronald Reagan.

Or maybe a board game, called "Where Did They Put the Toilet?"

Posted by: veerle1 | January 18, 2011 8:40 PM | Report abuse

I met with Reagan 1-1 for 30 minutes in August 1995 - he was perfectly lucid during the meeting.

Posted by: SCOTTSCHMIDTT | January 18, 2011 8:51 PM | Report abuse

I remember when Nancy Reagan said: "Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him."

Whether you liked him or not, that was a heartbreaking thing to hear.

Posted by: eezmamata | January 18, 2011 9:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm with Ron. I think Ronald Reagan would have been very proud of his son. He seems to be very honest, and wants to be transparent and truthful, for the sake of historical accuracy, about his father. Ron is doing the right thing by coming out and telling the truth about his father. Nothing shameful about that! Alzheimer is a horrible disease that affects people of all economic levels. It doesn't spare a person, because he happens to be a U.S. president.

Michael Reagan on the other hand is a fake and an usurper, who seems to want to pick on Ron, and enjoys letting everybody know that he was Reagan first son, and that he is better than Ron. But I think the reason they don't get along is because he was always jealous of Ron, because Ron was Reagan's legitimate biological son, and he was an adopted son--He was adopted by Ronald Reagan and Reagan's first wife.

Posted by: fridaolay | January 18, 2011 9:13 PM | Report abuse

Hey, get your facts straight, Steve. The boys Michael and Ronald are not half brothers. Michael and Maureen were adopted by Jane Wyman and RR. Ron is a progressive and Michael is Beck wanna be. I went to school with Michael and all he has ever done is use his family for personal gain.

Posted by: jmorran | January 18, 2011 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Politically, Ronald Reagan and I wouldn't have found much on which to agree. However, my Mother died of Alzheimer's in 1989. So, emotionally, it was devastating to hear Nancy tell the world, just a few years later, about "Ronnie's long journey..."

There is no harm in knowing that our leaders are human, and no disgrace in discovering that everything that happens at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue doesn't spring forth, unaided, from the clear mind of POTUS.

Given who Reagan was, and the loyal, conservative folk he surrounded himself with, would anything substantive have been different had he not suffered from this horrible disease? After all, he was not about to find his "liberal side" that late in his presidency.

I don't know how far Alzheimer's research had progressed by the late 1980s; but, when Bethesda Naval Hospital gave my Dad the awful news in 1984, he was told that only with an autopsies of her brain would we know for sure (and, this was after months of weekly clinical observation of her behavior). I doubt an autopsies of a living President was an option.

Personally, I think Ron did the right thing. As for Michael, I've never liked his politics (can you really be farther right than his Dad?); but, lay-off the "adopted" insults.

It's not fair to other adopted children, and Michael doesn't deserve that much expenditure of effort at showing anger.

Posted by: RASmith48 | January 18, 2011 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Michael has always played off his adopted fathers legacy. Michael Reagan is a jerk. Let the true Reagan family discuss what happened during Ronald Reagans' presidency. Enough Michael.

Posted by: jeanne021556 | January 18, 2011 10:43 PM | Report abuse

I'll go with Ron on the manner of when President Reagan started to have signs of Alzheimer. Anyone that has had a family member or friend is aware that the first signs are slow and there are days that are much better than other.
Michael Reagan has always been a sour wannabe. I lost total respect for him when I heard him on his radio program talking about grenades and babies.
I'm looking forward to seeing more of Ron's gracious mother in the news this year with the Republican Debates in Simi Valley and President Reagan's 100 Year Celebrations.

Posted by: cjackman | January 19, 2011 5:35 PM | Report abuse

I had a satellite dish during the '80s. When President Reagan gave a speech at Reykjavik Iceland, the staff had to turn the President around at the podium (he had his back to the microphone) so that he could give his speech.
This part of the newsfeed was cut out and the public never saw it. I knew then that there was something wrong.

Posted by: amatoba | January 20, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse

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