CNN Hypes Patti Davis' Claims That Reagan Would Support Same-Sex Marriage

CNN joined the New York Times in hyping Ronald Reagan's liberal activist daughter saying her father would have approved of same-sex marriage. Thursday's Starting Point devoted a whole segment to Patti Davis' claims and hosted her openly-gay friend who gave credence to her argument.

"Patti said she never spoke to her father about gay marriage," reported anchor John Berman. Nevertheless, CNN deemed the post-mortem claims of Regan's liberal activist daughter, who dropped her last name while in college and carved her own liberal path, newsworthy.

"[Y]ou look at that video, she seems pretty certain that he would have supported it," Berman said of Davis stating her father "wanted government out of people's lives." Berman even gave credit to her tale that a lesbian couple slept in her parents' bed when they were out of town. "I think that's going to be shocking to a lot of people," he remarked.

Meanwhile, CNN didn't show as much respect for Reagan's conservative son Michael who had penned an op-ed calling on churches to stand up for traditional marriage. Anchor Brooke Baldwin focused only on the most controversial part of his article.

Openly-gay guest Howard Bragman mocked, "I think the message there is he [Michael Reagan] is really in the dark ages on this." He bashed the Republican Party as well: "And I think there's a lesson to be had here from the discussion and that is the Republican Party is behind society on this issue. "

Bragman implied that conservatives should allow same-sex marriage:

"I think the polls now are about 58 percent to 60 percent of the American people support gay marriage. And whatever Ronald Reagan would have thought, it's a great discussion to have, and Republicans can understand that true conservative means a little less government and a little less intervention."

And Bragman lent support to Davis' claims even though he relayed the liberal criticism that Reagan didn't do enough for AIDS victims, saying "a lot of my friends and I included, are really angry at Reagan for his mishandling of the AIDS crisis."

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on April 4 on Starting Point at 7:50 a.m. EDT:

[7:50]

JOHN BERMAN: So the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, not expected for at least another two months. But we are seeing more politicians come out in favor of it.

BROOKE BALDWIN: And now Patti Davis, author and daughter of President Ronald Reagan is talking about how her dad might have felt about this whole debate. She talked about it in an online interview with friend and gay rights advocate, Howard Bragman.

(Video Clip)

PATTI DAVIS, daughter of President Reagan: I think he would be puzzled on the one hand at why anyone would have a problem with people wanting to be married. Because he wanted government out of people's lives. That he would not understand the intrusion of government banning such a thing. This is not what he would have thought government should be doing.

(End Video Clip)

BERMAN: Howard Bragman is the host of the Gwist TV YouTube channel, and the vice chairman for Reputation.com. He's also a friend of Patti Davis. Howard, great to see you today.

HOWARD BRAGMAN, vice chairman, Reputation.com: Thanks.

BERMAN: Patti said she never spoke to her father about gay marriage, but you look at that video, she seems pretty certain that he would have supported it. And she has some other reasons why.

BRAGMAN: Well, there's really three reasons. In 1978 in California, there was a very contentious ballot measure called the Briggs Initiative that they tried to ban all gay teachers from public schools. And even in '78 when he was running for president, ostensibly, her father wrote an editorial and opposed this initiative, joining a lot of Democrats, and said basically this is not contagious, that they are born that way. The second thing, and maybe the most interesting thing is her own life. Her parents would go away. A lesbian couple stayed, as she said, in her parents' king-sized bed, and they were aunt-and-aunt, and treated like every other couple.

BALDWIN: In their own bed.

BERMAN: Now I'd never heard that. Let's listen to Patti describe that. I had never heard that story before. Let's listen to what she says about that.

(Video Clip)

DAVIS: You know, I grew up with two lesbian aunts who used to babysit us when my parents, our parents went out of town together. They stayed at our house. They slept in my parents' room in the king-sized bed and I mean, I grew up understanding that they were a married couple.

(End Video Clip)

BERMAN: I think that's going to be shocking to a lot of people.

BRAGMAN: I don't think it's shocking to a lot of people. And there's a huge dichotomy with Ronald Reagan. I posted this on Facebook, and a lot of my friends and I included, are really angry at Reagan for his mishandling of the AIDS crisis, the fact that he (Unintelligible) and we feel like a lot of people died because of that. But it would be wrong to simplify and just say he is a totally bad guy. There's other parts – and really the third reason that Patti talked about was his dislike of government intervention. He likes small government. Stay out of people's lives, stay out of their bedrooms.

BALDWIN: I want to ask you though, about her brother, Michael Reagan, who is – you laugh – a conservative commentator, right? And so he's penned this op-ed last week basically taking a different stance. Let me read this for you. Quote, "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, and perhaps even murder." Wow. And he was on Piers Morgan basically defending the same stance. What is their relationship like?

BRAGMAN: You know what? They refuse to have Reagan family feud about this. They agree to disagree on this particular issue and on a lot of political issues. I think there's a lot of dichotomy there, but the family is more important, I think, to both of them. I worked with Michael about 30 years ago, and I ran into him a few years ago in New York, and "Howard, how are you? Haven't seen you in so long," and I got a big hug. And then I said, "Oh by the way this is my husband." You would have thought I took a poop on his shoe the way he looked at me. It was one of the most uncomfortable moments.

So, you know, I think the message there is he's really in the dark ages on this. Even the mainstream in the Republican Party isn't talking about bestiality and polygamy, and these things. And I think there's a lesson to be had here from the discussion and that is the Republican Party is behind society on this issue. I think the polls now are about 58 percent to 60 percent of the American people support gay marriage. And whatever Ronald Reagan would have thought, it's a great discussion to have, and Republicans can understand that true conservative means a little less government and a little less intervention.

BERMAN: It will be interesting to see if this has legs, a sort of posthumous support of gay marriage from Ronald Reagan.

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