Former Reagan Attorney General Calls Out Media For Treating Donald Trump With “Kid Gloves”

Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and continued in the position under President George H.W. Bush, says media outlets have been too wary in their coverage of Republican front-runner Donald Trump. Thornburgh also threw cold water on conservatives' comparisons of Trump to Reagan, saying the analogy “falls flat.”  

“I'm really quite surprised that the media has treated him with kind of kid gloves,”  Thornburgh said in a Thursday interview with Media Matters.  “They've been wary about criticizing him I think, unnecessarily so. The difference between his experience and the experience of his primary opponents, let alone to compare him to Ronald Reagan, is really not apt at all.”

“I've seen enough media efforts in previous campaigns where they're able to establish some weaknesses and vulnerabilities in every candidate,” he added. “And they seem to be somewhat intimidated with Trump.”

In the latest episode of his ongoing feud with Fox News, Trump recently pulled out of the network's January 28 Republican primary debate. While some right-wing media figures -- particularly those on Fox News -- have criticized Trump over the decision, others have suggested his move was Reagan-esque. CNN contributor Jeffrey Lord, who served as an aide to Reagan, compared Trump skipping the debate to Reagan walking away from nuclear talks with the Soviet Union in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1986. 

Thornburgh, who was serving as the Republican governor of Pennsylvania at the time, did not find the comparison compelling.  

“You're talking about two different things,” said Thornburgh. “You're talking about a partisan political primary debate and something of such vast international significance as those disarmament discussions, so I don't know if that is an apt analogy.”

He went on to criticize some conservatives' habit of comparing Trump and Reagan, stressing that Reagan had more experience and a less combative approach.

“I have a tough time drawing an analogy between Reagan and Trump. Their backgrounds are totally different,” Thornburgh said. “Trump has no experience whatsoever in government, in managing large governmental operations, while Reagan was a two-term elected governor of our largest state, California. So I think that analogy falls flat.”  

He later added, “Reagan was not anywhere near as combative as Trump is, Reagan was a much more low-key operator. He was tough, but not to the point of being rude as Trump has been on several occasions.”

Asked what he thought Reagan would make of Trump, Thornburgh said, “I don't think he'd be very pleased. One thing that Ronald Reagan always exhibited was cordiality and affability, he was a very friendly, courteous person -- characteristics I do not find in Donald Trump, quite the contrary.”