Ronald Reagan testifies before HUAC (1947)

In October 1947 Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) as a ‘friendly’ witness. HUAC members asked Reagan, then the sitting president of the Screen Actors Guild, if communists had ever interfered in the Guild’s activities:

Stripling: “Are you the president of the [Screen Actors] Guild at the present time?”

Reagan: “Yes sir”…

Stripling: “As a member of the board of directors, as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and as an active member, have you at any time observed or noted within the organisation a clique of either Communists or Fascists who were attempting to exert influence or pressure on the guild?”

Reagan: “Well sir, my testimony must be very similar to that of Mr Murphy and Mr Montgomery. There has been a small group within the Screen Actors Guild which has consistently opposed the policy of the guild board and officers of the guild, as evidenced by the vote on various issues. That small clique referred to has been suspected of more or less following the tactics that we associated with the Communist Party”…

Stripling: “Has it ever been reported to you that certain members of the guild were Communists?”

Reagan: “Yes sir, I have heard different discussions and some of them tagged as Communists.”

Stripling: “Mr Reagan, there has been testimony to the effect here that numerous Communist front organisations have been set up in Hollywood. Have you ever been solicited to join any of those organisations?…

Reagan: “Well sir, I have received literature from an organisation called the Committee for a Far Eastern Democratic Policy. I don’t know whether it is Communist or not. I only know that I didn’t like their views and as a result, I didn’t want to have anything to do with them.”

Stripling: “Mr Reagan, what is your feeling about what steps should be taken to rid the motion picture industry of any Communist influences?”

Reagan: “Well sir, 99 percent of us are pretty well aware of what is going on… I think within the bounds of our democratic rights, and never once stepping over the rights given us by democracy, we have done a pretty good job in our business of keeping those people’s activities curtailed. After all, we must recognise them at present as a political party. On that basis we have exposed their lies when we came across them, we have opposed their propaganda, and I can certainly testify that in the case of the Screen Actors Guild we have been eminently successful in preventing them from, with their usual tactics, trying to run a majority of an organisation with a well-organised minority.”

Reagan: “In opposing those people, the best thing to do is make democracy work. In the Screen Actors Guild, we make it work by ensuring everyone a vote and by keeping everyone informed. I believe that, as Thomas Jefferson put it, if all the American people know all of the facts they will never make a mistake. Whether the Party should be outlawed, that is a matter for the government to decide. As a citizen, I would hesitate to see any political party outlawed on the basis of its political ideology. We have spent 170 years in this country on the basis that democracy is strong enough to stand up and fight against the inroads of any ideology. However, if it is proven that an organisation is an agent of a foreign power, or in any way not a legitimate political party – and I think the Government is capable of proving that – then that is another matter. I happen to be very proud of the industry in which I work. I happen to be very proud of the way in which we conducted the fight. I do not believe the Communists have ever at any time been able to use the motion picture screen as a sounding board for their philosophy or ideology.”