President Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis praises Meghan Markle: ‘You have no idea what worldwide vilification feels like’

Patti Davis was a favourite tabloid topic in the 1980s because of her outspoken views about her father, President Ronald Reagan

Alice Hutton
Wednesday 10 March 2021 02:25
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Patti Davis, author and once estranged daughter of President Ronald Reagan and tabloid favourite, pictured in 2005 , has spoken out in defence of Meghan Markle
Patti Davis, author and once estranged daughter of President Ronald Reagan and tabloid favourite, pictured in 2005 , has spoken out in defence of Meghan Markle

Patti Davis, the outspoken ‘prodigal’ daughter of President Ronald Reagan who was taunted by the tabloids 30-years-ago, has come out in defence of Meghan Markle’s “courage” following the interview that rocked the royal establishment this week.

The now 68-year-old author wrote in The Daily Beast today that watching the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s CBS interview with Oprah on Sunday raised “the ghost of a long-ago past when I was a favourite topic of derision in the media”.

During the 1980s and 1990s, MsDavis, the daughter of Reagan and his second wife, Nancy, became estranged from her family following public criticism of her father’s policies (including his pro-life stance on abortion and views on nuclear weapons) as well as a controversial PlayBoy cover and an autobiography that spilled many “secrets”.

Ms Davis said she was “excoriated” for speaking at anti-nuclear rallies and “writing a book that revealed in detail my family’s turmoil and tensions”.

“I put myself on the front lines and the media obligingly gunned me down”, she said.

The writer, who changed her surname to her mother’s maiden name to have an independent career, said that she later came to “regret” her choice to be so open about her views but said that “even though I take responsibility for my actions, the barrage of criticism left a wound that never completely heals”.

President Reagan, the former Hollywood actor whose term from 1981 to 1981 was marked by a focus on conservative values, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the mid 1990s, leading to a reconciliation with his daughter. He died in 2004, aged 94.

Ms Davis wrote of the multiple parallels between her and Markle, including being a subject of “worldwide vilification”, with an unnamed UK celebrity calling Ms Davis an “argument for abortion”, and how being disowned meant her family became “accustomed to speaking at each other through the press”. 

Davis, second on the left in a 1985 familyt portrait with President Ronald Reagan, mother Nancy and siblings, was often estranged because of her outspoken views

She urged compassion and said: “For anyone who sees fit to criticise Meghan and Harry for choosing to tell their truth, I would like to suggest that you have no idea what it feels like to be vilified publicly. You have no idea how corrosive the helplessness is. There is nowhere you can go to escape the opinions, the criticism, and the threats from hordes of people who you will never meet.”

Ms Davis added: “I remember looking at a map and wondering where I could go to find respite, to get away from the hatred coming my way on a daily basis. I realised that, unless I wanted to hide out in a jungle somewhere, there was really no escape.”

She continued: “Think about that if you are forming opinions, particularly of Meghan Markle, who fell in love with a prince only to find herself portrayed as a shrew. Think about the helplessness, and the whispers of history as she had to endure racist comments. Think about the courage it took to say, ‘I’m not going to be silent. If the world is going to talk about me, I’m going to talk back and say what really happened.’”

Ms Davis added: “Meghan and Harry will never get over their experience with worldwide vilification. But they will get through it. They will come out on the other side with more wisdom, some of it born of sadness. They will have more appreciation for the people who offered them understanding and compassion, and they’ll have a keener sense of how important boundaries are. The best that everyone else can do is realise they have no idea what it’s like to walk in their shoes, and they never will.”

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