In the Fargo episode The Gift of the Magi Ronald Reagan (portrayed by Bruce Campbell) is campaigning for presidency and Lou works as his security detail. They have a conversation in the toilet where Reagan compares (rather inappropriately) Lou's service in Vietnam to his own role in a WW2 movie. Later when Lou asks:

Governor, I don't mean to, uh What we did over there, the war? Um and now? My wife's got lymphoma. Uh, Stage III. And, uh, lately, the state of things, uh Well, sometimes, I late at night I wonder if maybe the sickness of this world, if it isn't inside my wife somehow. The-- the cancer. I don't-- I don't know what I'm saying, except Do you really think we'll get out of this mess we're in?

Reagan is unable to give any answer, apart from some standard political nonsense and patting Lou's back. The (almost) whole scene can be seen here.

This depiction of Reagan makes him look like an unpleasant, not very social or wise person.

This seems to be in contrast with what can be read on Wikipedia:

Reagan's ability to connect with Americans earned him the laudatory moniker "The Great Communicator." (...) Reagan was known to joke frequently during his lifetime, displayed humor throughout his presidency, and was famous for his storytelling.

Moreover, in this article the showrunner Noah Hawley says that Reagan has a key role in the show, but as an indicator of changes. He clearly states that presenting his views on Reagan was not his intention:

I don't have a moral opinion on Reagan; that's not part of the show.

Taking above facts into consideration why the showrunners showed Ronald Reagan in a negative light?

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    Reagan was more polarizing than Wikipedia might lead you to believe, they called him "teflon" for a reason. Also, for a large part of his second term it was pretty well accepted he had Alzheimers. SNL used to do bits about it. There was a funny one where he is portrayed in the standard way and then goes full-on capable when people leave the room, talking into two phones at once and speaking several languages. It killed because it was absurd.
    – Yorik
    Jan 11, 2017 at 15:27

2 Answers 2


It seems that the show was trying to portray both the warmth and approachability you describe AND the way he was perceived as somewhat superficial.

Specifically addressed by Bruce Campbell in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

HR: I love the scene with Reagan and Lou at the urinal, because that scene seems to capture both Reagan's believable empathy, but also how superficial and empty he could come across. How did you approach that scene?

BC: (Laughs.) He doesn't have an answer! He doesn't have all the answers. We can say that we have all the answers. We can get up there and give speeches and tell people, "You know if you want a great country again, here's what we have to do," but it doesn't stop people from getting cancer. It doesn't stop their lives from being discarded. Speeches aren't going to stop anything. So yes, the theory is great. "Let's pick ourselves up by our bootstraps" and he honestly believes that as an American you can overcome anything, even your wife who's dying. He couldn't abandon his approach, but it does show a little bit of the fallibility of it, that it is a pie in the sky theory. Instead of being the president goes, "I feel your pain, all you poor people, we're going to help you right now," that was not the approach. If you were poor, that was your fault. Americans can do anything. Why are you poor? "You just have to work a little harder." He's still stuck with the attitude at the time, "Well, if you just roll up your sleeves and sweat a bit..."


There are plenty of horrible people who get to positions of great influence because they push the right buttons on people. Those people might also be considered "great communicators," which is essentially what a demagogue does.

Not to say that Reagan was a horrible person.... also, not to say that he wasn't. This is to say that Wikipedia having a laudatory statement about someone, Reagan, especially, doesn't necessarily translate to fact.

The conservatives have created a mythological version of Reagan that, in no way, actually maps to the actual person who held office as president or his actions while president.

It's entirely likely that a version of him that shows him with flaws is as likely to be accurate as a version that shows him as some kind of kindly saint. Keep in mind, that any show with Bruce Campbell playing a part, is highly likely to be exaggerated in some way or form for panache and effect. That's kind of his style.

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