[Updated below] The AP started backing off the story the day after publishing its original report. Note the update at the bottom of this piece.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) recently insisted that Ronald Reagan firing air-traffic controllers in 1981 was “the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime.” It was at that point that an important truth became clear: Walker’s Reagan worship is just a little creepy.
But taking a step further, listening to the governor, it also became clear that Walker didn’t quite have his facts straight, either. But when it comes to the Republican icon, it appears the details aren’t especially important to the Wisconsin governor.
At a 2013 Reagan Day dinner in Milwaukee, Walker told a Reagan story that he said “gives me a little bit of a shiver.”He described being invited by Nancy Reagan to give a speech at the Reagan Library near Los Angeles in November 2012, five months after he won a recall election that stemmed from his successful effort to curtail the union rights of public employees in his state. […]Walker went on to describe how, during a tour of the library before the speech, the library curator “unbeknownst to me” had taken the Reagan family Bible out of its display and readied it for him to look at.
The Progressive magazine highlighted this YouTube clip of Walker’s remarks, in which the GOP governor said that officials at the Reagan Library “brought over a pair of white gloves to me and they said, ‘No one has touched this since President Reagan. It is his mother’s Bible that he took the oath of office on. Mrs. Reagan would like you to hold it and take a picture with it.’”
The AP report added that audience members “can be heard gasping” in response to Walker’s comments.
The problem is, the facts of the story aren’t quite in line with the governor’s anecdote.
Walker was invited to deliver the speech, but while he said the Reagan family Bible out was made available “unbeknownst to me,” the truth is the governor specifically asked in advance to see the book.
And while Walker did handle the Bible with gloves, he was not the first person to handle the book since the former president himself.
The AP report published this response from Walker’s spokesperson: “Gov. Walker was honored to speak at the Reagan Library and to hold his mother’s Bible. He was and continues to be one of his heroes, a president for the ages that accomplished great things for our country.”
You’ll notice, of course, that the comment did not include an explanation for the details Walker got wrong.
I can appreciate the fact that the governor has come to idolize the former president. Walker likes to tell audiences, for example, that his wedding anniversary coincides with Reagan’s birthday, and Walker’s recall election fell on the anniversary of Reagan’s death. Maybe he sees these coincidences as having a special meaning, connecting him to a figure he celebrates in near-religious reverence.
But the governor isn’t running to be president of a fan club; he’s running to be president of the country. Maybe he can dial it down a notch? Even by contemporary Republican standards – the RNC, without irony, has called Reagan “Ronaldus Magnus” – this is getting a little out of hand.
Update: The Associated Press reported late this afternoon that there’d been a “simple misunderstanding” that “left the wrong impression that Walker personally sought to hold the book. A spokeswoman for the Reagan Foundation says Walker’s retelling of the moment is correct.”