MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s tale of how he came to hold the family Bible that President Ronald Reagan used when taking the oath of office doesn’t match the memory of the presidential library curator charged with caring for the book.
A likely Republican candidate for president, Walker grew up during Reagan’s presidency and holds him as a political role model. Walker, 47, frequently notes that his wedding anniversary and Reagan’s birthday fall on the same date.
At a 2013 Reagan Day dinner in Milwaukee, Walker told a Reagan story that he said “gives me a little bit of a shiver.”
He described being invited by Nancy Reagan to give a speech at the Reagan Library near Los Angeles in November 2012, five months after he won a recall election that stemmed from his successful effort to curtail the union rights of public employees in his state. Walker said he met with Nancy Reagan before the speech and told her that he had won the recall on the eighth anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s death.
Walker went on to describe how, during a tour of the library before the speech, the library curator “unbeknownst to me” had taken the Reagan family Bible out of its display and readied it for him to look at.
“And they brought over a pair of white gloves to me and they said, ‘No one has touched this since President Reagan. It is his mother’s Bible that he took the oath of office on. Mrs. Reagan would like you to hold it and take a picture with it’,” Walker said in a YouTube video of part of the speech posted by a reporter for the liberal magazine The Progressive.
Audience members can be heard gasping, then applauding as Walker tells the story.
But library artifacts curator Jennifer Torres told The Progressive magazine in a series of emails that it was Walker who had asked to view the Bible while at the library.
“We decided to remove the Bible the day Gov. Walker was in town to comply with his request, took the Bible back to collections after the photo and re-installed it on exhibit a few days later,” Torres said in the March 4 email.
Torres also said in the email that Walker’s assertion that he was the first person to touch the Bible since Ronald Reagan was untrue.
“Since the president’s passing, several staff members and conservators have handled the Bible, all while wearing gloves,” Torres said in the emails. “It is unknown if President Reagan was the last to have to have touched the Bible without gloves, but it is doubtful.”
Torres said Walker was the only visiting dignitary to have handled the Bible, adding that he was also likely the only one to have made such a request.
Asked about the discrepancy between Walker’s telling and Torres’ recollections, Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for Walker’s political group, Our American Revival, said in a statement that, “Gov. Walker was honored to speak at the Reagan Library and to hold his mother’s Bible. He was and continues to be one of his heroes, a president for the ages that accomplished great things for our country.”
Torres did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press, but Jennifer Mandel, another Reagan library employee, confirmed that Torres had sent the emails describing Walker’s request to see the Bible.
Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/sbauerAP
YouTube video of Walker speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwBJiI24M9E
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