Ron Reagan

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Ron Reagan
Ron Reagan in 2008
Reagan in 2008
Ronald Prescott Reagan

(1958-05-20) May 20, 1958 (age 64)
EducationYale University (no degree)
  • Radio show host
  • television host
  • writer
Political partyIndependent[1]
  • Doria Palmieri
    (m. 1980; died 2014)
  • Federica Basagni
    (m. 2018)

Ronald Prescott Reagan (born May 20, 1958) is an American liberal political commentator and broadcaster. He is a former radio host and political analyst for KIRO and Air America Radio, where he hosted his own daily three-hour show. He has also been a contributor to MSNBC. His liberal views contrast with those of his father and conservative icon, President Ronald Reagan.

Early life and education[edit]

Reagan (second from left) celebrating his father's re-election at The Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, California

Reagan was born on May 20, 1958, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.[2] He is the youngest son of Ronald Reagan and his second wife, Nancy Davis Reagan. The family lived in Sacramento while his father was governor, from 1967 to 1975.[3] His sister, Patti Davis, is five and a half years older. His older brother Michael Reagan, adopted as an infant by Ronald Reagan and his first wife, Jane Wyman, is 13 years older. He also had two half-sisters born to Reagan and Wyman, Maureen Reagan (1941–2001) and Christine Reagan, who was born prematurely, on June 26, 1947, and died the same day. At an early age, his father, Ronald Reagan, often joked that they were related to every royal family with the name O'Regan in Europe. Burke's Peerage provided the Reagans with their family tree, which lacked any direct connection to European royalty.[4][clarification needed]

Ron Reagan undertook a different philosophical and political path from his father at an early age. At 12, he told his parents that he would not be going to church anymore because he was an atheist.[5]

Reagan attended and was expelled from The Webb School of California. He commented:

They [the school administration] thought I was a bad influence on the other kids. As I recall, the immediate reason was I went to a dance at a neighboring girl's school in a classmate's car. This was an infraction. They had been looking for an excuse. I didn't get caught at anything.[5]

Reagan dropped out of Yale University in 1976 after one semester to become a ballet dancer.[5] He joined the Joffrey Ballet in pursuit of his lifelong dream and participated in the Joffrey II Dancers, a troupe for beginning dancers, where he was mentored by Sally Brayley.[6] Time wrote in 1980: "It is widely known that Ron's parents have not managed to see a single ballet performance of their son, who is clearly very good, having been selected to the Joffrey second company, and is their son nonetheless. Ron talks of his parents with much affection. But these absences are strange and go back a ways." The parent Reagans went to see Ron perform at the Lisner Auditorium on Monday, May 18, 1981. The elder Reagan commented in his White House diary on this day that Ron's performance was "darn good" and reminiscent of Fred Astaire.[7]

Reagan, who was 22 and married by the time his father took office, never lived in the White House.[8] He dropped his Secret Service protection eighteen months into his father's presidency.[9]


In February 1986, Reagan hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live.

Reagan became more politically active after his father left the White House in 1989. In contrast to his father, the younger Reagan's views were unabashedly liberal. In a 2009 Vanity Fair interview, Ron said that he did not speak out politically during his father's term because the press "never cared about my opinions as such, only as they related to him", adding that he did not want to create the impression that he and his father were on bad terms because of political differences. In 1991, Reagan hosted The Ron Reagan Show, a syndicated late-night talk show addressing political issues of the day, which was canceled after a brief run since it was unable to compete with the higher ratings of The Arsenio Hall Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and Nightline.[10]

Reagan has worked in recent years as a magazine journalist and has hosted talk shows on cable TV networks such as the Animal Planet network. In Britain, he is best known for having co-presented Record Breakers (based on The Guinness Book of Records) for the BBC. Reagan presented a report from the United States each week.[11]

He has served on the board of the Creative Coalition, an organization founded in 1989 by a group that included Susan Sarandon and Christopher Reeve, to politically mobilize entertainers and artists, generally for First Amendment rights, and causes such as arts advocacy and public education. From February to December 2005, Reagan co-hosted the talk show Connected: Coast to Coast with Monica Crowley on MSNBC.[10]

Until its demise in 2010, Air America Media aired The Ron Reagan Show. The program made its debut on September 8, 2008.[12]

In 2011, he published My Father at 100: A Memoir.[13] In interviews promoting the book, Reagan described noticing his father was having certain mental lapses which, in hindsight, caused the younger Reagan to speculate subsequently that his father may have already been in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease while still in office.[14][15] This assertion was attacked by critics, including his brother, Michael Reagan.[16] Ron Reagan subsequently clarified that he did not feel the lapses were evidence of "dementia."[17]

Political activities[edit]

Reagan is not a member of a political party, but votes Democratic.[1] In July 2004, Reagan spoke at the Democratic National Convention about his support for lifting Bush's restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem cell research, from which he expected a cure or new treatments for Alzheimer's disease, of which his father had recently died. "There are those who would stand in the way of this remarkable future, who would deny the federal funding so crucial to basic research. A few of these folks, needless to say, are just grinding a political axe and they should be ashamed of themselves," Ron Reagan said of the restrictions. "We can choose between the future and the past, between reason and ignorance, between true compassion and mere ideology."[18] Reagan's mother Nancy also supported this position.[19]

In September 2004, he told the Sunday Herald newspaper that the George W. Bush Administration had "cheated to get into the White House. It's not something Americans ever want to think about their government. My sense of these people is that they don't have any respect for the public at large. They have a revolutionary mindset. I think they feel that anything they can do to prevail — lie, cheat, whatever — is justified by their revolutionary aims" and that he feared Bush was "hijacking" his father's reputation.[20]

Reagan later wrote the essay "The Case Against George W. Bush by Ron Reagan"[21] for Esquire. He voted for Democratic candidate John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. Reagan endorsed Senator Barack Obama of Illinois for president in the 2008 presidential election.[22] In November 2015, Reagan endorsed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Party nomination in the 2016 Democratic Party primaries.[23]

In early 2020, Reagan stated that his father would have opposed Donald Trump, remarking to The Daily Beast that his "father would have been ashamed of this Republican Party" as well as "been embarrassed and ashamed that a president of the United States was as incompetent and traitorous as the man occupying the White House now."[24]

Personal life[edit]

Reagan with his wife Doria in 1985

Reagan lives in Seattle.[5] He married Doria Palmieri, a clinical psychologist, in 1980. She died in 2014 from neuromuscular disease. They had no children.[25] He married Federica Basagni in July 2018.[24]

Reagan stated in a 2004 New York Times interview that he did not claim any religion, but that his sympathies were with Buddhism and his wife was a Buddhist.[26] In a June 23, 2004, interview on CNN show Larry King Live, while discussing reasons why he would not run for political office, Ron Reagan stated "I'm an atheist [...] I can't be elected to anything because polls all say that people won't elect an atheist."[27]

In February 2010, he was named to the Freedom From Religion Foundation's Honorary Board of distinguished achievers.[28] In May 2014, Reagan appeared in an advertisement for broadcast on Comedy Central for the Freedom From Religion Foundation in which he declared himself "an unabashed atheist" who is "not afraid of burning in Hell."[29] The ad received renewed attention in October 2019 when it aired on CNN during the fourth 2020 Democratic Presidential Debate.[30] The ad was also run during the CNN Democratic debates in January and March 2020.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Skelton, George (April 13, 2020). "Column: How Ron Reagan, son of a true believer, became an atheist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  2. ^ Edwards, Anne (August 1, 2018). The Reagans: Portrait of a Marriage. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4930-3647-9.
  3. ^ Zeboski, Walt (November 18, 1971). "Reagans cherish privacy despite a very public life". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. p. 1C.
  4. ^ Reagan, Ron (2011). My father at 100. New York: Viking. ISBN 9780670022595. OCLC 646111792.
  5. ^ a b c d "20 Questions: Ron Reagan", by Betsy Rothstein, The Hill, September 24, 2008.
  6. ^ "What Do You Call the Connection Between the Metropolitan Opera and Ron Reagan's Dance Troupe? Wedded Bliss :". Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  7. ^ "White House Diaries: Monday, May 18, 1981". Retrieved July 10, 2019.
  8. ^ "Revelle Forum: Ron Reagan". University of California Television. February 4, 2011. Retrieved June 14, 2021 – via YouTube.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ Gomez, Luis. "Donald Trump Jr., Kellyanne Conway don't have Secret Service protection. Here's reason why". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 29, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ a b Ron Reagan at IMDb
  11. ^ Profile,; accessed September 2, 2014.
  12. ^ "Reagan Joins Air America as Permanent Weeknight Host". Radio Online. September 4, 2008. Archived from the original on January 22, 2009. Retrieved November 27, 2013.
  13. ^ Ron Reagan (2011). My Father at 100. Penguin. ISBN 978-0-670-02259-5. OCLC 646111792.
  14. ^ Pilkington, Ed (January 17, 2011). "Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer's while president, says son". The Guardian.
  15. ^ Epstein, Jennifer (January 14, 2011). "Son: Reagan suffered Alzheimer's while in office". Politico. Retrieved May 1, 2021.
  16. ^ Hohmann, James (January 15, 2011). "Reagan calls brother 'embarrassment'". Politico. Retrieved May 1, 2021.
  17. ^ The Colbert Report, January 18, 2011
  18. ^ "Ron Reagan's Speech to the Democratic National Convention". New York Times. July 27, 2004. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
  19. ^ Nancy Reagan plea on stem cells. BBC News. May 10, 2004.
  20. ^ Johnston, Jenifer. Reagan Junior Warns Bush: "Stop Hijacking My Father's Reputation". Sunday Herald. September 26, 2004.
  21. ^ Reagan, Ron (2004). "The Case Against George W. Bush". Esquire. Archived from the original on August 10, 2004. Retrieved April 25, 2015.
  22. ^ Reagan, Ron (December 1, 2008). "Making It Official: I Endorse Barack Obama". HuffPost. Retrieved April 20, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. ^ Ralph, Elizabeth F. (September 16, 2015). "GOP 2016: The Reagan Brothers on Donald Trump and the GOP". Politico Magazine. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
  24. ^ a b Teeman, Tim (January 17, 2020). "Ron Reagan: My Father, Ronald Reagan, Would Not Want Republicans to Vote for 'Traitor' Trump in 2020". The Daily Beast. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  25. ^ "Ron Reagan, not afraid to burn in hell, promotes atheism in TV spot". Los Angeles Times. May 30, 2014. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  26. ^ Solomon, Deborah (June 27, 2004). "The Son Also Rises". The New York Times. Retrieved August 30, 2014.
  27. ^ "Interview With Ron Reagan Jr". Larry King Live (transcript). June 23, 2004. Retrieved November 27, 2013.
  28. ^ "Honorary FFRF Board Announced". Archived from the original on December 17, 2010. Retrieved August 20, 2008.
  29. ^ "First 'atheist ad' on 'Daily Show,' 'Colbert Report' features Ron Reagan". Freedom From Religion Foundation. May 20, 2014. Retrieved August 30, 2014.
  30. ^ "A lot of people were Googling 'Ron Reagan' after his atheism ad aired". October 15, 2019. Retrieved October 16, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Reagan, Nancy. My Turn: The Memoirs of Nancy Reagan (1989), with William Novak. H. W. Brands Reagan: The Life (2015) p. 743 says "she wrote one of the most candid and at times self-critical memoirs in recent American political history."

External links[edit]