When Ronald Reagan Told a Joke About Irish Spies - Atlas Obscura
Free iron-on Atlas Obscura badge when you preorder our new kids’ book. Shop now.

When Ronald Reagan Told a Joke About Irish Spies

“It’s one of the few stories I can tell now since ethnic jokes are a no-no.”

Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan in 1981.
Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan in 1981. White House Photographic Office/Public Domain

A version of this story originally appeared on Muckrock.com.

When Ronald Reagan signed the controversial Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 into law, he did so with panache, holding the ceremony at CIA HQ.

Before an assembled crowd of friendly members of the Intelligence Community, Reagan felt comfortable enough to start with what he called “an ethnic joke.”

Take it away, Reagan!

While not his best material (he did admit he stole that one from Bush), in the Gipper’s defense, that wasn’t even the funniest thing he said that day.

First, there was this great line showing just how Reagan felt about the airport that would later bear his name …

and second, this absolute knee-slapper suggesting that - in 1982 - the days of CIA wrongdoing were well in the past.

Oh, Reagan. There you go again.

Read the full remarks here.