Did the Kennedy Administration Try to Drive Reagan Off the Air?

Ronald Reagan apparently detested Bobby Kennedy, another sign of Reagan’s good judgment since Kennedy was an awful human being. But this is something I hadn’t heard before: Michael Reagan says that Bobby leaned on General Electric to get Reagan off television:

[A] few months after [subpoenaing Reagan before a grand jury], Kennedy tried to get him fired from General Electric Theater. Or, at least, that’s what Reagan believed. “Dad told us he had just lost his job with GE,” Reed recalls Reagan son Michael Reagan telling him. “He said [GE President] Ralph Cordiner had called him earlier to report that he [Cordiner] had been contacted by Bobby Kennedy, who had said: ‘If you want government contracts, get Reagan off the air.’”


Is it true? Ronald and Michael Reagan are both reliable witnesses. Reagan biographer Steve Hayward can weigh in on this; he probably knows something about it.

In any event, GE’s transformation from a beacon of support for free enterprise to the poster child for crony capitalism is a sad story. There is a reason why no large, publicly-owned American company today sponsors a conservative like Reagan: they can’t risk their relationships with the federal government, which controls a large portion of the economy. This is why Charles and David Koch are unique, and why so many big businessmen regard them as traitors to their class.

Too, Bobby Kennedy is a useful reminder that liberals didn’t just become bullies recently. They have been bullies with a wide totalitarian streak from the beginning.

STEVE adds: This matter has been floating around for a long while.  There really isn’t any information about it at the Reagan Library that I’ve ever seen, and I’m told there doesn’t appear to be much on it (or Reagan generally) in the GE corporate archives.  If there is any documentary evidence, it would be at the JFK Library (good luck), or buried in some old Justice Department archives.  My guess is that you wouldn’t find any specific references to Reagan by name; just a lot of mumbo-jumbo about GE’s market “concentration.”

I’m not sure whether the Kennedy administration antitrust inquiries into GE were specifically targeted at driving Reagan off the air.  Those were the days of aggressive and stupid antitrust investigations and lawsuits or many big corporations, which I’m sure the Kennedys liked to use for general political purposes.  (Recall JFK saying businessmen were “sons of bitches.”)  But GE did indeed end Reagan’s broadcast and PR contract in 1962 amidst the Justice Department threatening a breakup suit.

The irony, of course, is that had GE kept Reagan on his lucrative contract, Reagan might never have decided to enter politics a few years later.  So in that sense we see once again liberalism backfiring on itself.

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