Reagan Supporter Meets with Leaders to Influence 1980 Elections: NYT

  • GOP politician Ben Barnes said his mentor worked to influence the 1980 election in favor of Reagan.
  • Former Texas Governor John Connally has asked Middle East leaders to delay the release of Iranian hostages.
  • “History needs to know that this happened,” Barnes told The New York Times.

Forty years later, a former Texas Republican politician stepped forward and said he witnessed his mentor, former Texas Governor John B. Connally Jr., meet with Middle Eastern leaders to deliver a message: Don’t release Iranian hostages until after the 1980 elections. Between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.

Speaking to The New York Times, Ben Barnes told Connally that he accompanied Connally on a trip through six countries in the Middle East in 1980 (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel) and that his mentor asked various leaders to relay the situation. He said he was watching. Message to Iran. Barnes told the Times that he hoped to help Connally, who lost the Republican nomination to Reagan that year, win to secure a position in the administration.

According to Barnes, Connally later briefed Reagan’s then-campaign director, William J. Casey, about the trip. Casey asked Connally if they would “hold hostages,” referring to Iran, which was led by Ayatollah Khomeini at the time, Barnes told the Times.

The Times noted there was no verification beyond Barnes’ anecdote, but four people Barnes trusted over the years said the story he shared with the newspaper was consistent with what he told them.

Both Connally and Casey died before Barnes brought forward his account – Connally in 1993 and Casey in 1987 – and did not publicly reveal the events he had disclosed while they were alive.

In 1979, Iranian militants stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and took dozens of Americans prisoner for what they believed was excessive US influence on their country’s politics. The kidnappings resulted in more than a year of negotiation attempts and a failed rescue mission that was greenlit by the Carter administration.

During the 1980 election, Carter’s inability to free the hostages before the general election, and the related news, is where the term “October surprise” originated.

Casey, who coined the term, told media outlets they feared Carter was planning to secure the release of the hostages just before they went to the polls to turn voters’ decisions in their favour. However, this did not happen.

The prisoners were released by the Iranian government within minutes of Reagan’s inauguration as president.

Barnes told the Times that the purpose of the Middle East mission was to learn about Iranian hostages, and Casey’s eagerness to gather details about the trip was proof of that for him.

“I will go to my grave believing that this is the purpose of the trip,” Barnes told the Times. “It wasn’t freelance work because Casey was very interested in hearing it as soon as he got back to the United States.”

But The Times cautions that there is no evidence that Connally’s request to delay the hostage release went back to the Iranians or influenced their decision to release the hostages after the election. There’s also no evidence that Reagan was aware of the meetings, but he did contact Connally at least once during the trip, according to historical documents reviewed by the Times.

Before Barnes’ interview with the Times, rumors were swirling that actors previously linked to Reagan may have tried to influence the election using the Iran hostage crisis, but House and Senate panels said nothing that Reagan was trying to delay the release of anyone linked to the presidential campaign. concluded that there was no evidence. your hostages.

In his second term, Reagan was embroiled in scandal after selling weapons to Iran in 1985 despite a US trade embargo to free 7 American hostages.

Barnes told the Times that he finally decided to share details of the trip after the news that Carter had been admitted to the hospice.

“History needs to know that this happened,” Barnes, now 85, told the Times. “I think that’s very important, and I think knowing that the end of President Carter is near has made this more and more embedded in my mind. I feel like we have to get this done somehow.”

The Barnes and Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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