The foundation that protects the legacy and likeness of former President Ronald Reagan has called for President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee (RNC) to stop using the revered Republican’s name to raise money for the presidential campaign, according to reports in US media.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute took the action after a Trump fundraising email offered a gold-coloured coin with images of Reagan and Trump in exchange for a donation of $45 or more, the Washington Post reported.
Proceeds from the coin sales went to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising operation that benefits the Trump campaign and the RNC, according to the newspaper.
“It was simply handled with a phone call mid last week to the RNC, and they agreed to stop,” Reagan Foundation chief marketing officer Melissa Giller said in an email to the Washington Post.
Giller later told The Hill news site that “we own the likeness of President Reagan and they used his image for the coin without our consent. We called the RNC and asked them to cease and desist the use of (President) Reagan on the coin and they agreed.”
Reagan, an actor and former governor of California who became the 40th president, is considered within the Republican party one of the most respected voices of modern conservatism, which emphasises small-government tax cuts, free markets and heavy defence spending.
In a famous 1980 speech, Reagan, referencing a biblical story, envisioned the US to be a country trying to achieve its “destiny to be as a shining city on a hill for all mankind to see”.
The speech remains a touchstone of Republican rhetoric that is often referenced on the campaign trail.
In the 1990s, according to the Washington Post, the former president and his wife, Nancy Reagan, granted sole rights to their names and likenesses to the Reagan foundation.
When asked about the dust up, Michael Ahrens, the RNC’s communications director, told The Hill: “President Reagan was a proud Republican and supporter of a party that has carried on his fight for conservative principles of economic opportunity and limited government.
“His likeness is used by thousands of Republicans each year who gather around the country for ‘Reagan Dinners,’ and his library regularly hosts debates for our presidential candidates,” he said.
Meanwhile, Giller told the Post the Reagan foundation was looking into how widely distributed the fundraising email was and how many coins had already been sold. She said the organisation may still get lawyers involved.
The newspaper also noted that this is not the first time Trump, or his fundraisers, had used Reagan’s name.
In July 2019 the president retweeted a fake quote, falsely attributed to Reagan, that recounted a previous meeting between him and Trump.
“When I met that young man (Trump), I felt like I was the one shaking hands with the president,” the made-up Reagan quote said.