Talk Radio and Ronald Reagan’s First Campaign

(The following is an excerpt from The Right Frequency.)

Before Bob Grant became a real celebrity out of New York, the producer of his Los Angeles program on KABC got a call from public relations firm that wanted to book Ronald Reagan as a guest.

“My producer, a nice young fellow from Inglewood, N.J. as a matter of fact, he said, ‘Bob doesn’t do show business stuff. We’re dealing mostly with politics and current events,’” Grant recalled.

The PR guy asserted, “Maybe you don’t know, but Ronald Reagan is not going to talk about his latest movie. He doesn’t make moves any more. He’s running for governor.’ When my producer told me I said get him, by all means. Get Ronald Reagan. I was already a fan of Reagan. I had heard several of his speeches or read them.”

“So Reagan was booked and it turned out to be his first radio interview as a gubernatorial candidate. I kept him for two hours. He was only supposed to be on for one,” Grant said.

Grant said Reagan, seeking his first political office, fumbled on more than a few questions, but Grant, being a fan, covered for him.

“We even had a woman call from Pasadena and say ‘You two ought to change places.’ She wanted to vote for Governor [Edmund G.] Brown,” Grant said. “She didn’t like the fact that I was helping Ronald Reagan. When she said, ‘You two guys ought to change places,’ Ronald Reagan, such a wonderful human being, says, ‘You know, you might have a good point there.’ That in retrospect has turned out to be my most memorable interview.”

That is saying something for a man who has been on the radio for six decades.
More than two decades later, another California radio announcer would travel to New York to be on the same station as Grant.

When an upstart Rush Limbaugh left Sacramento to come to WABC in New York, the excitement of the move was soon blunted when seemingly none of his callers wanted to talk about what Rush was talking about.

“I wasn’t just going to do a national show. I had to do a local show for two hours a day on WABC as well, because they weren’t going to carry the national show at first,” Limbaugh explained. “And, folks, I can’t tell you how dispirited I got the first month.
Here I am doing my show, and I’m doing my thing, and every phone call I got wanted to talk about what Bob Grant had said the day before. I’m on from ten a.m. to noon, and I’m sitting there saying, ‘Are you people not listening to me?’”

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One Comment on “Talk Radio and Ronald Reagan’s First Campaign”


  1. So, his early audience was smarter than his audience is now. Makes sense.


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