Ronald Reagan made racist remarks about African delegates to the United Nations, calling them “monkeys” in a newly-discovered taped conversation with then US president Richard Nixon.
Mr Reagan made the comments in a phone call with the disgraced Mr Nixon as the two discussed a 1971 vote by the UN to recognise China, instead of the US ally Taiwan.
At the time of the call, Mr Nixon was still president and Mr Reagan, who had entered politics after a successful career as a screen actor, was governor of California.
The tape of the October 1971 phone call was unearthed by Tim Naftali, former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library. His findings were published online in The Atlantic magazine.
In the call, Mr Reagan criticises the African countries that sided against the United States. Specifically, the two were discussing the Tanzanian contingent’s reaction to the vote, after delegates danced in the chamber.
Mr Reagan, who went on to win the presidency in 1980, was an ardent defender of Taiwan. He called Mr Nixon to vent his anger at the African nations that defied the United States and voted at the UN to grant recognition to the People’s Republic.
In the call, Mr Reagan criticises the African countries.
“Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did,” Mr Reagan said.
“Yeah,” Mr Nixon said.
Mr Reagan continued: “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries – damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!”
Mr Nixon responds with a throaty laugh and went on to gleefully repeat Mr Reagan’s remarks in other taped conversations with his advisers.
Mr Naftali writes that the conversation between the two men was originally released in 2000 with the offending portion removed “to protect Reagan’s privacy”.
Mr Reagan’s death in 2004 removed any considerations about privacy, and last year Mr Naftali requested the full release of the recordings. They were released earlier this month by National Archives, which made them available online.
On the day of the audio’s release, the Reagan Foundation, which is dedicated to “the preservation and promotion of the legacy of Ronald Reagan” tweeted a quote from Mr Reagan in which he spoke of the American dream and how American needed “all of its people … individuals of every race … to be happy, healthy and whole”.
“We can preserve the dream of America…We need all our people, men and women, young and old, individuals of every race, to be happy, healthy, and whole. And that’s what our job is all about.” – Ronald Reagan pic.twitter.com/Ih8MTNbT3C
— Reagan Foundation (@ronaldreagan40) July 31, 2019
The tape’s release comes at a time when current US President Donald Trump has been accused of repeatedly making racist remarks and was rebuked by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives over “racist comments” about four minority Democratic lawmakers.