In an interview with Ain't It Cool News writer Eric Vespe (better known online as 'Quint') published June 6th, Steven Spielberg confirms that, following a White House screening of E.T: The Extraterrestrial in 1982, President Ronald Reagan did indeed make remarks to the effect that the premise of Spielberg's movie - extraterrestrial visitation - was fact, not fiction.
This is something of a bombshell. Rumours have persisted for years about just what - if anything - Reagan told Spielberg during the 1982 White House E.T. screening, but not until now has the director spoken about it on the record. Spielberg's version of events, however, differs slightly from the version that has entered UFO-lore.
According to Spielberg, Reagan did not address his remarks to him personally, but rather - and more remarkably - to all guests in the room collectively (some of whom were astronauts). Here is what happened in Spielberg's own words:
"It was in the White House screening room and Reagan got up to thank me for bringing the film to show the President, the First Lady and all of their guests, which included Sandra Day O’Connor in her first week of as a Justice of the Supreme Court, and it included some astronauts… I think Neil Armstrong was there, I’m not 100% certain, but it was an amazing, amazing evening.
He just stood up and he looked around the room, almost like he was doing a headcount, and he said, 'I wanted to thank you for bringing E.T. to the White House. We really enjoyed your movie,' and then he looked around the room and said, 'And there are a number of people in this room who know that everything on that screen is absolutely true.'
And he said it without smiling! But he said that and everybody laughed, by the way. The whole room laughed because he presented it like a joke, but he wasn’t smiling as he said it."
Asked by his interviewer if he thought Reagan "let something slip" that evening, Spielberg replied:
"I don’t think he let something slip there, no. I think he delivered a joke without smiling, without a little bit of a twinkle behind the joke. I think the joke landed because everybody laughed, but because I’m a little bit of a Ufologist I was hoping that there was something more to the joke than met my eye. I’m sorry to say I think he was simply trying to tell a joke."
Sorry, Steven, I'm not buying it. Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the subject of UFOs and the Presidency will know as a well documented fact that Ronald Reagan was extremely interested - obsessed, even - with the idea of alien visitation and that this interest extended to a 'belief' (if that is right word) in UFOs (Reagan even had two UFO sightings of his own whilst Governor of California). The notion of alien visitation so preoccupied the President that it entered his policy speeches on a number of occasions, most famously at the 42nd General Assembly of the United Nations on 21 September, 1987.
Even if Spielberg had not been aware of Reagan's interest in UFOs back in 1982, the self-proclaimed "ufologist" would most certainly be aware of it today and could be confident in hindsight that Reagan's comments were not meant in jest.
Of course Reagan's guests laughed at his remark - how else would they have reacted? With a collective gasp of shock followed by a flurry of pressing questions? And surely Reagan knew they'd laugh, which is probably why he felt comfortable saying it in the first place. But Steven - Mr. Spielberg - when a President who believes in aliens tells you that aliens are real, when he says it "without smiling, without a little bit of a twinkle," and when it seems in no way at all like a joke but for the obligatory laughter that follows, it's safe to assume he's not kidding around.
I don't doubt that Spielberg is telling it as it happened, but I am indeed suggesting that he is being less than truthful in regard to his own personal interpretation of Reagan's comments. But if Spielberg believes - or even knows - that Reagan wasn't joking, why not just say so? Well, because Spielberg is quite a friend to the White House, and has been for decades. He routinely rubs shoulders with the Washington power elite. He's a former Bilderberg attendee. He's a billionaire. He's hugely influential. What he says matters; it rings out. He's smart, and, most importantly in the eyes of his friends in Washington, he's discreet. If Spielberg were not discreet, those regular invites from the White House would long ago have ceased to grace his mailbox.
When you're in Spielberg's privileged position, you don't ruffle Presidential feathers, no matter how old those feathers may be.