Michael Reagan: ‘We Never Saw or Met Karl Rove’ in 1980 Reagan Texas Campaign

February 12, 2013 - 7:55 PM

Michael Reagan:  ‘We Never Saw or Met Karl Rove’ in 1980 Reagan Texas Campaign

Michael Reagan, the adopted son of former President Ronald Reagan and a long-time conservative talk-radio host and commentator. (AP)

(CNSNews.com) – Michael Reagan, the adopted son of former President Ronald Reagan, recently tweeted he agreed that political consultant Karl Rove’s claims of running the 1980 Texas presidential campaign for Reagan were not true and that during that campaign in Texas he and his sister Maureen Reagan “never saw or met Karl Rove.”

In addition, long-time conservative political consultant Roger Stone Jr., who was the North Eastern Regional Political Director in Texas for the 1980 Reagan campaign, said he had “no memory of Karl Rove ‘running’ Texas,” adding “I never heard his name” and that “Rove is a Bushman – never a Reaganite.”

The controversy over Rove, who served as a senior adviser to President George W. Bush, partly started on Feb. 3, when a New York Times story discussed his new political action committee, the Conservative Victory Project, which apparently is designed to funnel money to more “establishment” Republican candidates as opposed to more grassroots, Tea Party-type candidates.

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Roger Stone Jr., during the 1984 Reagan-Bush campaign.

That article prompted numerous conservative leaders to criticize Rove and on Feb. 7, on Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor, Rove addressed some of those critics and said, “I was the director of the Texas campaign for Ronald Reagan in the fall of 1980.”

He further said that he “was appointed by President Reagan to sit on the White House Fellows Selection Panel.”

Rove’s statement about being “the director of the Texas campaign for Ronald Reagan in the fall of 1980” was quickly challenged.

Reagan biographer Craig Shirley is the author of Rendezvous With Destiny, which is about the 1980 campaign, and he said that in his research for the book “at no time did I come across Mr. Rove’s name in association with the Reagan campaign.”

On Feb. 8, Michael Reagan tweeted, “Shirley is correct! Exclusive – Reagan Biographer: Rove’s Claimed ties to Gipper ‘Clearly Untrue.’”

Then, on Feb. 9, Michael Reagan tweeted again, “Texas was my sister Maureen’s and my State in 1980 campaign and we never saw or met Karl Rove.”

In an interview with CNSNews.com, Michael Reagan said that he and his sister Maureen spent half their lives in Texas during the 1980 campaign and "I never laid eyes on Karl Rove, never saw him, never talked to him -- and that was our state."

"There was not a place in Texas my sister and I did not go in 1980," said Reagan. "We never heard a word [of Rove], we never heard the name."

Reagan also said that he attended numerous fundraisers throughout Texas in 1980 and he "never saw Karl Rove at a fundraising event." Concerning the criticism by conservatives challenging Rove's claims, Reagan said that if Rove was involved as much as he claims, then "he'd know how much time I spent there, [so] don't you think he'd call me on the phone by now and say, 'Mike, you know I worked on the campaign, remember?'"

"Then he could defend his position, right?" said Reagan. "I'm the only living Reagan who was totally involved. But, you see, I haven't gotten that call [from Rove]. Wouldn't you make that call?"

Reagan said he learned of Rove later during the Bush campaigns and ran into him many times since then but during those encounters Rove never said, "'Hey Mike, remember 1980 in Texas?'"

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President Ronald Reagan (AP Photo)

On Feb. 11, Roger Stone Jr. released the following statement: “I was the North Eastern Regional Political Director for Governor Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign. Rick Shelby , a former Oklahoma GOP Chairman was my Southwestern counter-part. I knew and had a high regard for both Ray Barnhart and Ernie Angelo from the 1976 Reagan campaign when I was National Youth director. I attended several national meetings of the Reagan campaign leadership.

“I have no memory of Karl Rove ‘running’ Texas. I never heard his name. He may have worked on a phone bank somewhere or weaseled some direct-mail business from the state party Victory fund. Rove is a Bushman -- never a Reaganite.”

CNSNews.com spoke with Barnhart and Angelo last week about  the controversy.  Barnhart, who was involved in the 1980 Reagan campaign in Texas, said, “I don’t recall that Karl was there in a leadership role, quite frankly.”

Ernest Angelo, who was the campaign manager of the 1980 Reagan Texas campaign told CNSNews.com that Karl Rove had been brought in after the GOP convention in July 1980 and that he worked under Angelo as director of the Texas Victory Committee, a phone bank, get-out-the-vote effort.

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Republican political consultant Karl Rove, a former deputy chief of staff in the George W. Bush administration. (AP)

In his 2010 book, Courage and Consequence, Rove writes that then-Gov. Bill Clements “called me into his office and brusquely told me to move my posterior over to the Victory Committee. He was to be its chairman and I was to be its executive director. The outcome of the presidential election could turn on the results in Texas--and so, he made clear, could my future.”

“The Reagan high command didn’t fully trust Clements, because the governor was close to Ford, his 1976 primary opponent, and had played an important role at the 1980 Detroit convention in reassuring Reagan to tap Ford as his running mate,” writes Rove.

“So they sent two people to look over our shoulders," said Rove.  "One was Texas Republican national committeeman Ernie Angelo, former mayor of Midland. The other was the campaign’s southwestern political director, Rick Shelby. Both were parked in Austin for the rest of the campaign, and we hit it off.”

The campaign leaders, eyewitnesses, and available documentation show that Rove was the director (or "executive director") of the Texas Victory Committee but he was not " the director of the Texas campaign for Ronald Reagan in the fall of 1980."

When CNSNews.com contacted Rove's office last week for comment on the controversy, his chief of staff at Karl Rove & Company explained that the topic was discussed in his book, Courage and Consequence, and e-mailed the sections from that book in response.