Ronald Reagan's daughter says there's no defense for the newly revealed racist comments he made in 1971. Patti Davis doesn't recognize the person who said those things, she says, and she wouldn't have believed he had if his words hadn't been recorded on tape. But she has listened to the comments, which were reported in an Atlantic article by Tim Naftali, who teaches history now but was the first director of the Nixon Presidential Library. In a phone call with President Richard Nixon, Reagan, who was governor of California at the time, refers to UN delegates from African nations as "monkeys" and says "they're still uncomfortable wearing shoes!" In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Davis says there's no acceptable explanation for those words, so she tries to put them in the context of her father's life and beliefs as she knew them.
Davis cites examples of Reagan standing against racism. He took his college football team to his parents' house when black players couldn't stay at a hotel with the rest of the team. He turned down membership at a country club that Jewish and black people couldn't join. And he told her as a girl that "God made all his creations in different colors. It would be pretty boring if we all looked the same." But none of that erases the pain inflicted by his 1971 words, Davis writes, and she says she cried when she heard them. HuffPost points out that when running for governor 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." And he invoked the "welfare queen" stereotype as a presidential candidate. But Davis calls the 1971 conversation an exception to the way he lived and his values. "My hope is that others will forgive my father for words that should never have been uttered," she writes. (Read more Ronald Reagan stories.)