Leno Prompts Brokaw to Reminisce About Reagan-Bashing

Jay Leno on Friday night reminisced about admiring Tom Brokaw for appearing on the cover of the far-left Mother Jones magazine back in 1983, an interview in which Brokaw denigrated then-President Reagan from the left for “pretty simplistic” values and over how he didn't understand “the enormous difficulty a lot of people have in just getting through life, because he’s lived in this fantasy land for so long.”

With Brokaw on to promote his book, 'Boom!: Voices of the Sixties Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today,' Leno recalled: “I was just starting out in comedy and you'd been on the cover of kind of a left-wing, really left-wing magazine called Mother Jones. Then I thought this is really, wow, Tom Brokaw, 'cause you would have been the establishment and you're on the cover -- and that seemed, and I always wondered if NBC was annoyed or upset that you had done that?”

Not surprisingly, NBC wasn't bothered at all, Brokaw explained, “but Mrs. Reagan was really unhappy with me” for the interview, in which he acknowledged Ronald Reagan was poor as a child, but expressed how “I always thought that connection to people who were struggling was a little artificial because he really began to make it big at an early age.” Brokaw proceeded to recount how he kissed and made up with Nancy Reagan.

Two quotes from Brokaw's interview in the April 1983 Mother Jones magazine:

♦ Pretty simplistic [values]. Pretty old-fashioned. And I don’t think they have much application to what’s currently wrong or troubling a lot of people....Nor do I think he really understands the enormous difficulty a lot of people have in just getting through life, because he’s lived in this fantasy land for so long.

♦ But I thought from the outset that his ‘supply side’ [theory] was just a disaster. I knew of no one who felt that it was going to work, outside of a small collection of zealots in Washington and at USC — Arthur Laffer, Jack Kemp. What I thought quite outrageous was the business community, which for years carped and complained that it could never get a President sympathetic to its needs, finally got its champion, Ronald Reagan. Then, to its horror, it discovered that he was actually going to press ahead with supply side — a theory whose disastrous consequences businesspeople began desperately to prepare for, but did not publicly warn the rest of the country about. They knew it simply could not work. But what they did was look to their own little life raft and not to anyone else’s.
For more of Brokaw's liberal views, see the MRC's September of 2003 Media Reality Check, “Marking Tom Brokaw’s Twenty Years of Tilt: NBC Anchor Boasted 'We’ve Worked Hard to Drain the Bias' but Viewers Still Swimming in Liberalism.”

For a thorough collection of examples of the antipathy toward Ronald Reagan displayed by journalists over the years, check the MRC's Special Report released just after the 40th President passed away in June of 2004, “Ronald Reagan: The 40th President and the Press: The Record.”

Leno certainly sees the world from the left, so his interest in Mother Jones is not a surprise, as he revealed his left-wing perspectives in a local newspaper interview back in 2004, an interview in which he boasted of reading Mother Jones. The September 17, 2004 CyberAlert item, “Jay Leno Echoes Howard Dean's Views, Praises Michael Moore,” recounted:
Jay Leno is quite liberal, and echoes Howard Dean, a LA Weekly story this week documented. The alternative weekly's Nikki Finke summarized her interview with the host of NBC's Tonight Show:
"Jay Leno says, 'I'm not conservative. I've never voted that way in my life.' He 'really worries' what a Dubya victory in November will do to the makeup of the Supreme Court. He believes 'the wool was pulled over our eyes' with the Iraq war. He thinks the White House began using terrorism 'as a crutch' after 9/11. He feels that during the campaign Kerry should 'make Bush look as stupid as possible.' He believes 'the media is in the pocket of the government, and they don't do their job' so 'you have people like Michael Moore who do it for them.' He has on his joke-writing staff a number of former professional speechwriters for Democratic candidates. 'No Republicans.' When it comes to Bush, he doesn't think his politics are much different from Letterman's. 'Does he show his dislike maybe a little more than I do? Probably.' Leno used to read Mother Jones magazine."
Plus he took shots at the Fox News Channel and talk radio.
In that interview, Leno remembered: “When I was a kid, I used to read everything: Mother Jones, Time, Newsweek and The New Republic.”

Everything except anything not liberal.

The Leno-Brokaw exchange on the February 1 Tonight Show:
JAY LENO: The thing I find fascinating about this book is, you're the same age as my brother, so I see a lot of my life in your life -- in my brother's life -- in this book, in just some of the shared experiences that we have. Like I remember, I was just starting out in comedy and you'd been on the cover of kind of a left-wing, really left-wing magazine called Mother Jones. Then I thought this is really, wow, Tom Brokaw, 'cause you would have been the establishment and you're on the cover -- and that seemed, and I always wondered if NBC was annoyed or upset that you had done that?

TOM BROKAW: Well, NBC was not so annoyed, but Mrs. Reagan was really unhappy with me because it was about President Reagan – and I did have a good relationship with him -- and it was about whether -- He had been very poor for a long time, obviously he had a very difficult childhood, but when he was in his 20s he began to make real money, came out here, he was a contract player. So I always thought that connection to people who were struggling was a little artificial because he really began to make it big at an early age.

So I got banned from the White House. She was very unhappy with me, it kind of rolled off his back. Staff members at the White House said to me, we've got to get this corrected. You'll be invited to a White House state diner and you'll have to figure out how or what you're going to say to her. And I'm in the receiving line in the East Room of the White House going up to meet Mrs. Reagan and the President before we went in for dinner. And I was trying desperately to think of what I was going to say and I got right up to her and she was giving me a steely look. I threw up my arms and said “back to square one, Nancy.” And she looked at me for a moment, burst out laughing, spread out her arms, she said “back to square one, Tom.” And we had a little exchange of a cheek kiss and the next day at the NBC offices in New York I got a White House photo with the two of us with our arms outstretched, she said: “Back to square one, Tom, love Nancy.” It's what made her such a great politician. She was so helpful to President Reagan.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center