Exclusive—Reagan Biographer: Rove's Claimed Ties to Gipper 'Clearly Untrue'

Conservative author Craig Shirley, a Ronald Reagan biographer, told conservative leaders on Friday that he cannot find any records of GOP strategist Karl Rove having ever worked for Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign.

“In the course of my research for Rendezvous with Destiny about the 1980 campaign, at no time did I come across Mr. Rove’s name in association with the Reagan campaign,” Shirley said in an email distributed to conservative leaders nationwide on Friday morning. 

“Indeed, according to sources, he was with the George H. W. Bush campaign until he was fired for leaking to the media. In 1976, as Chairman of the College Republicans, Rove was for Gerald Ford over Governor Reagan, as was all of the Republican National Committee.

“The 1980 Texas campaign for Ronald Reagan was run by Ernie Angelo and the Field Director was Rick Shelby. Gary Hoitsma ran the media for Reagan in Texas in 1980,” Shirley added. “In fact, Mr. Rove’s own bio on his website says he was on Governor Clements staff in 1980 and Clements was not on board with Reagan until after Detroit convention.” 

Shirley’s email was in response to comments Rove made on the Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor on Thursday evening. 

“I was the director of the Texas campaign for Ronald Reagan in the fall of 1980 and was appointed by President Reagan to sit on the White House fellows selection panel,” Rove said.

In a followup email interview with Breitbart News, Shirley said he thinks Rove keeps bringing up Reagan as a way to make himself appear more conservative. “It would be hazardous to guess, especially since the Republican establishment of that era despised Reagan and Mr. Rove was of course a member of the Republican establishment, just as he is today,” Shirley said. “All I can do is relay the facts and the facts are Mr. Rove supported Ford over Reagan in 1976, supported Bush over Reagan in 1980.”

“Being a true blue ‘Reaganite’ is something special in the conservative movement,” Shirley added. “It is a badge of true honor. No one goes around calling themselves a ‘Bush Republican’ or a ‘Romney Republican’ but lots of people proudly bear the title ‘Reagan Republican’ including those who were not for him when it was difficult to be for him. Now it's easy to be for Reaganism even for those who bitterly opposed Reagan.” 

Shirley added that the real legacy of the conservative movement traces back to those like Reagan, former Sen. Barry Goldwater, and conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly--people who challenged the establishment constantly, something people like Rove just don’t do.

“American conservatism is defined by always being in a perpetual state of revolution, always challenging the status quo,” Shirley said. “Reagan was head of the national government for eight years and yet no one ever thinks of Reagan as being a part of Washington. Even as president, he was always challenging conventional wisdom. This is what also distinguished Winston Churchill. He too always challenged the ruling elites.”

Shirley said that he thinks it's important for grassroots conservatives to publicly challenge people like Rove over his statements.  "Mr. Rove last night on a Fox Show claimed he was the Director of the 1980 Reagan campaign in Texas which is clearly untrue," Shirley said.  "Since that time, I've received many inquiries because of my books about Reagan."


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