Did Ronald Reagan Actually Go Golfing The Day After The Beirut Bombing In 1983?

A couple of heavily circulated memes from the page “Occupy Democrats” as well as the page’s owner, Omar Rivero, claim that President Ronald Reagan went golfing after he had been made aware of the Beirut barracks bombing which occurred early on the morning of October 23rd, 1983. Mr. Rivero is currently a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives in District 118, which is in the Miami suburbs.

On his page, he posted the following statement:

How dare Republicans criticize Pres. Obama for playing a little golf when “St. Ronnie” did the same thing while he sent 241 of our brave soldiers to die in Beirut?

It’s truly unconscionable. (Source)


Side by side comparisons of screenshots taken from Occupy Democrats and Omar Rivero’s campaign page. “False” captions added by the author of this article.

At first glance, this sounds like a great response to the conservative bashing of President Obama who likes to go golfing, as have numerous other presidents in the past. According to the golf magazine Links, 15 of the past 18 presidents have played golf, but not all of them were necessarily good at it.

Horse racing may be the sport of kings, but golf is the pastime of Presidents. Fifteen of the last 18 Commanders-in-Chief have played to varying degrees, from Dwight D. Eisenhower’s zeal to Ronald Reagan’s yearly outing. (Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman and Jimmy Carter didn’t partake.)

President Barack Obama is part of the majority. He has a decent swing (albeit with a pronounced chicken-wing follow-through), but lags far behind fellow Punahou School alumni Parker McLachlin and Michelle Wie, not to mention several other Presidents who pursued the game in office. (Source)

Out of all the presidents, Links rated John F. Kennedy as the best golfer, despite his bad back and Addison’s Disease. Dwight D. Eisenhower played more than 800 rounds while in office, with a quarter being at the same famous Augusta National club where the image of Reagan golfing was taken on August 22nd, 1983. Ronald Reagan was considered a mediocre golfer at best and did not play very often.

Huffington Post also ran an article based off one from The Daily Banter claiming that President Reagan was still on vacation during the Beirut bombing:

President Reagan was still on vacation at the GOLF! resort the next day when the Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed, killing 241 Marines.

Since the attack happened at 11:22 pm EST which is 7 hours ahead of Beirut, yes, President Reagan was still on vacation when it happened. As he noted in his presidential diary, he was awakened around 0230 EST to the news of the bombing and immediately met with the Secretary of State, George Shultz and his Chief of Staff, James Baker. They left for the airport at 0630 EST and arrived back at the White House around 0830 EST.

Earlier in September, President Reagan came under fire for remaining on vacation when a South Korean airliner was shot down by the Soviet Union. Only after realizing that staying at his ranch and going horseback riding looked bad, did he return to the White House.

In 1983, when a South Korean jumbo jet was shot down by a Soviet fighter, President Reagan was on holiday in California.

Initially, his staff said he would not curtail his vacation despite the international furore that followed the incident. Mr Reagan had “every facility, every capacity, every capability” to handle the matter in Santa Barbara, his spokesman, Larry Speakes, said.

But soon television networks were screening film of Mr Reagan horse-riding in cowboy gear as the relatives of the passengers grieved. Mr Reagan returned to the White House. (Source)

Again, there are two inaccuracies with this meme. First, Occupy Democrats thanks the Facebook page Being Liberal for the image, something page owners often do as a common courtesy when they use a meme from another page. However, there was no image of this kind on Being Liberal’s page at the time I took these screenshots and added “False” to both of them.

Second, President Reagan played golf at Augusta National on October 22nd – not October 23rd, or October 24th. There was an armed hostage situation there on the 22nd with a man demanding to talk to Reagan, who was on the 16th fairway at the time. This was reported by the New York Times.

The bombing happened at 06:22 Beirut time on the morning of October 23rd and President Reagan was woken up around 2:30 AM. So unless President Reagan immediately headed straight to the golf course and played in the dark, there is no way that he could have played golf – especially in broad daylight as shown in the image with political text added.

The image without the added text originally appears on the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum‘s page with the caption “President Reagan playing golf at the Augusta National Golf Club. 10/22/83.”

Therefore, this meme gets a double false rating. One for the attributed source of the meme, and the second false for being 100% inaccurate. We’ve also reached out to our friends at Politifact for their rating and will update when they respond.

In an extremely important election year, we here at Forward Progressives still subscribe to the belief that the truth matters. If we can’t expect “our side” to tell the truth – and call them out on it when they don’t – then we’re nothing more than hypocrites for complaining about lies coming from the “other side.”

9:48 PM PDT 8/26/2014

It seems after this article went live, Mr. Rivero deleted the meme from his campaign page and from the Occupy Democrats page. No public retraction of the false information has been posted on either page, although the meme had been shared over 5,000 times as of the time this article was published. If a public retraction is posted, this article will be updated to reflect that.


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