Piers Morgan Hits Michael Reagan for Reinforcing 'Bigotry That Pervades the Party'

CNN's Piers Morgan put Michael Reagan through the wringer on Wednesday over a small portion of his op-ed on churches and same-sex marriage. Morgan barely discussed the overall point of the article, focusing instead on "very controversial comments" near the end of the op-ed.

Within his call for churches to openly oppose same-sex marriage, Reagan had noted a "slippery slope" that would occur if same-sex marriage is legalized, possibly leading to legalization of "bestiality, and perhaps even murder." Morgan found this "at worst really very bigoted and offensive" and attacked Reagan for comparing gay marriage to bestiality and murder, even though Reagan was not comparing the two, but rather was arguing that legalization of one could lead to legalization of the other.

Morgan tied it all to Republican "bigotry":

"Because it seemed to me what this is another example of, and there's been a sort of series of these, of slightly older, white Republicans coming out with really odd language in the middle of these debates. And all it seems to do to people is reaffirm a kind of bigotry that pervades the party."

The two engaged in a lengthy debate over the issue, where Morgan asserted that "marriage has been redefined repeatedly." He hit Reagan for flying in the face of the GOP "when the Republican Party is trying to reposition itself as a more, I don't know, a more tolerant party, if you like."

The grilling played into Morgan's pattern of hosting pro-gun and pro-traditional marriage conservatives only to berate them on-air and marginalize them. He's done it with gun rights advocates John Lott and Ben Shapiro, and with traditional marriage supporters Ryan Anderson and now Michael Reagan.

Morgan also pushed the Catholic church to move with the times and support same-sex marriage: "And the reality is that the majority of Catholics, 54 to 38 percent, are actually in favor of same-sex marriage. So maybe the church is going where the flock are going, moving at the same speed that America is moving." Did Morgan forget that as a cardinal, Pope Francis called legalization of same-sex marriage "a destructive attack on God's plan"?

Reagan argued that Supreme Court judges like Antonin Scalia are asking the same questions about the legality of gay marriage and murder, and called out Morgan for showing selective outrage toward him:

"So why aren't you upset with everybody else? Why are you only upset with me? If I don't mention those things also, to tell you the truth, you won't invite me on. You won't invite me on to talk about my feelings about gay marriage."

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on April 3 on Piers Morgan Tonight at 9:05 p.m. EDT:

[9:05]

PIERS MORGAN: Now to turn to some very controversial comments from the son of President Ronald Reagan. Michael Reagan wrote an op-ed in which he urges America's churches to fight against same-sex marriage and calls it a "slippery slope," I'm quoting here, "to polygamy, bestiality, and perhaps even murder." Well, Michael Reagan is here to explain himself.

Michael, you and I are friends and we have talked about many issues on this show. But I don't come to this particular encounter feeling very friendly towards you, because I found these comments, I'll be honest with you, quite offensive. Likening same-sex marriage in any form to polygamy, bestiality in particular, and murder, seem to me at best crass and at worst really very bigoted and offensive. How do you plead?

MICHAEL REAGAN, President Reagan's son: What's really interesting, to explain this, is the fact that these are the same questions that are being posed in courtrooms across the United States of America and, in fact, posed within the Supreme Court just eight days ago. It's interesting. When they're posed in a court of law to a Solicitor General or to someone else, Ted Olson, that there's no outcry. There's no outrage. But if I quote or I use those same words in an op-ed piece, that are being used in courtrooms across America, somehow there's all this outrage that is out there.

And the whole point of the piece was about the church. Where is the church when it comes to these issues? Why aren't they out there fighting? There are conservative groups and Christian groups who are out there fighting in front of the Supreme Court and across the land. But you don't see the church as a whole, in fact, fighting it. And that was – that was the part of the piece I was really talking about.

MORGAN: Right. Right. We're both Catholics. And the reality is that the majority of Catholics, 54 to 38 percent, are actually in favor of same-sex marriage. So maybe the church is going where the flock are going, moving at the same speed that America is moving. And it just struck me that when the Republican Party is trying to reposition itself as a more, I don't know, a more tolerant party, if you like. For you to come out as Ronald Reagan's son, a very respected man, and say what you said.

Let's read it again so I can be precise about this. "It's ultimately about changing the culture of the entire country. It will inevitably lead to teaching our public school kids that gay marriage is a perfectly fine alternative and no different than traditional marriage. There is also a very slippery slope leading to other alternative relationships, and the unconstitutionality of any law based on morality. Think about polygamy, bestiality, perhaps even murder."

REAGAN: And that's what I said, was the fact that those are the things being talked about in the courtrooms in the Supreme Court. Go back and read the document of –

MORGAN: Right. But you have retracted –

REAGAN: – of the Supreme Court.

MORGAN: Right. But on Twitter, you have retracted the murder bit, right?

(Crosstalk)

REAGAN: I retracted that because --

MORGAN: Why? Why did you retract it?

REAGAN: I feel I retracted it because after rereading it and then, you know, hearing from you and other people say, maybe it was a bit crass to use that word. But those words are being used in the debate about gay marriage.

(Crosstalk)

MORGAN: Why is murder -- why is murder –

REAGAN: You tell me. Ask the judges who were in fact –

(Crosstalk)

MORGAN: No, no, that's not my question, Michael. My question was this. My question is this. Why are you retracting murder and allowing bestiality to stay there? As if somehow there's any kind of similarity between bestiality and two loving gay people.

REAGAN: Okay. Two loving gay -- I think it's wonderful. I have friends of mine that have been together 40 years. 40 years they've been together. Great Republicans. Great friends of my dad. My god, I've been – I've been with these people for 40 years, love 'em to death. The reality of it is, I don't believe in gay marriage, there's many people don't believe in gay marriage. I think you can have a debate on that. I don't believe in it. I think it does send a slippery slope. I think if you accept the redefinition of marriage, then you're going to have to accept the redefinition all the way down the line. For example --

MORGAN: But marriage has been redefined repeatedly.

REAGAN: If you, in fact, define marriage as two people getting married, whether male and male, female and female, then at some point you may have to say do you agree with, in fact, polygamy? Do you think it's all right to marry more than one person? Do you think it's okay for a bisexual to, in fact, marry a male and a female? If you are, in fact, consistent, Piers –

MORGAN: But you're likening it --

REAGAN: -- you will agree to that. You will agree to that.

MORGAN: But I know. But you're linking –

REAGAN: Do you agree to that?

MORGAN: Let me tell you what I don't agree with. I don't agree with this. I don't agree comparing a man who wants to marry his loving, male partner with a man who wants to have sex with an animal, which is what you've likened it to today.

REAGAN: No, I – I likened it within – I likened it within the op-ed piece the way the judges are asking the questions of those in front of them, in fact, fighting for gay marriage to, in fact --

(Crosstalk)

MORGAN: Do you understand why gay people – why gay people find that particularly offensive?

REAGAN: But it's interesting. They'll attack me for quoting and saying in an op-ed piece what is being said in courtrooms across America. I pay attention to what's being said in courtrooms. These are the questions being asked of those people fighting for gay marriage. So why aren't you upset with everybody else? Why are you only upset with me? If I don't mention those things also, to tell you the truth, you won't invite me on. You won't invite me on to talk about my feelings about gay marriage.

MORGAN: Now, Michael – I think there is a perfectly reasonable debate to be had about same-sex marriage. I do. And I totally accept, as a Catholic myself, that many people in my church and many other people who have religious conviction have concerns about same-sex marriage. I don't happen to have those concerns. But I don't like some of the language that the anti-same sex marriage groups are using and you are a very vocal conservative spokesman on many issues. And when I see someone like you who I really do respect, comparing as you did -- there is no other way to describe it. You can talk about courts and so on.

But using some kind of analogy to bestiality and perhaps even murder, I'm like, whoa, Michael. That is not a respectful way to make gay people look at their relationships. They're not people who want to have sex with animals.

REAGAN: No --

MORGAN: It's not a slippery slope --

(Crosstalk)

REAGAN: And I'm not --

MORGAN: -- to having the law changed to say a man can have sex with a dog.

REAGAN: I'm not saying there are. I'm not saying that at all that they are.

(Crosstalk)

REAGAN: No, what I'm saying –

MORGAN: If we allow these gays to get married, we could end up with them marrying dogs, that's what you're really saying.

REAGAN: Where do we stop the redefinition of marriage? Where does it stop?

MORGAN: Let me talk about redefinition of marriage.

REAGAN: Where does it stop?

MORGAN: You've raised a good point. You've raised a good point. You may remember that in 1967, it was illegal in 16 states in America for black people to marry white people.

REAGAN: All right.

(Crosstalk)

MORGAN: Marriage got redefined by the Supreme Court to allow black people to marry white people. What is your answer to that?

REAGAN: Those are laws that were made by man. Man is sinful, as you know, you're Catholic and I'm Catholic. I believe marriage was defined and blessed by God. Two different things. Man is the sinner, Christ just died for our sins and rose again last Sunday for our sins. The fact of the matter, man will always sin and make mistakes. I'm glad the Catholic Church has taken a stand and is at least in this -- in this day and age of the world in turmoil, they are taking a stand for righteousness, and I happen to like the new Pope.

MORGAN: I like the new Pope, too. And I think that he is going to be – I think quite forward-thinking about this. What surprised me again was your father, for example, and this has been pretty extraordinary, 1978, in this very state of California, he was the governor. He almost single-handedly got thrown out a law that was about to come in that was going to prohibit gay teachers from teaching in California. And it was a pretty heroic political action by your father. I don't think he would have liked you, his son who he loved, to be using comparative words like "bestiality" and "murder" when debating same-sex marriage. That's where I honestly feel you crossed a line.

REAGAN: Well, you feel I crossed the line. But again, it allowed me a point to come on and talk to you about where I feel about this issue. About gay teachers, I don't care about gay teachers. I don't ask a teacher if they're gay or straight. I want to know if they're good teachers.

MORGAN: But you do care about it.

REAGAN: That's the issue.

MORGAN: You do care about it because –

REAGAN: No, I do care about it –

MORGAN: Wait, wait, wait.

(Crosstalk)

MORGAN: Let me read you again what you said. You said ultimately it's about changing the culture of the country, it inevitably will lead to teaching our public school kids that gay marriage is a perfectly fine alternative and no different. Well why shouldn't they be taught that gay marriage is a perfectly fine alternative?

REAGAN: I don't think it's a perfectly fine alternative. I don't think we should be, in fact, teaching about marriage in the school room where our kids can't read, can't write, and sure as heck can't add.

MORGAN: Did you see it as a crime against nature?

REAGAN: Hmm?

MORGAN: Same-sex marriage. Is it a crime against nature?

REAGAN: I'm not going to get into if it's a crime against nature, whatever.

MORGAN: You know why I'm asking that.

REAGAN: My mother, Jane Wiman, gave Rock Hudson his first job in Hollywood. So I'm very familiar with the gays in Hollywood. I have no problem with gays in Hollywood. I just have problems with, in fact, gays getting married and changing the culture and redefining the institution of marriage.

MORGAN: But it reminds me a little bit Michael – my last point on this. You know, there were people in America and throughout America in the '50s and '60s saying, yeah, I know a few black people, but I don't want them marrying our white girls.

REAGAN: And I think that was wrong. I would have agreed with them. Because that was made by man. Man is inevitably wrong.

MORGAN: The racists in the south would even use the phrase it's a crime against nature. And you know what, they changed the law, the Supreme Court stepped in and said no, this is wrong.

REAGAN: And they were right to do that.

MORGAN: And guess what, the –  

REAGAN: But they were -- they were right –  

MORGAN: Guess what, Michael, the world didn't end. We all got used to the idea of black people marrying white people.

REAGAN: And I – I don't have a problem with it. As I told you. Man is sinful. Man makes mistakes. That's why we have laws. And God, I don't think, ever made one.

MORGAN: Michael, I -- you may be right about God. Maybe he never made a mistake. I suspect he would say he did or she would say that she did. But that may be another debate that we'll have.
Thank you for coming in. You braved me down and I appreciate it. I think you knew where I come from. And it'd be good to talk to you again soon.

(...)

MORGAN: Well, let me turn to Elise for a moment. Because it seemed to me what this is another example of, and there's been a sort of series of these, of slightly older, white Republicans coming out with really odd language in the middle of these debates. And all it seems to do to people is reaffirm a kind of bigotry that pervades the party.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014