Back in 2007, Krugman wrote a much-talked-about column in which he accused Ronald Reagan of exploiting white racism in his quest for the presidency. He gave three specific examples of Reagan using “tacit race-baiting.”
One was Reagan’s speech at a County fair in Mississippi where, he says, Reagan “declared his support for states’ rights — which everyone took to be a coded declaration of support for segregationist sentiments.” This event has been discussed in great detail, including on this blog, but suffice to say that this is at best an exaggeration; contemporary coverage of the event, while noting the controversial venue (near where three civil rights workers were murdered), does not support the idea that the audience thought Reagan was endorsing segregation. As I wrote previously, “Reporters at the time reported that the audience didn’t perceive that Reagan was referring to race , e.g, the NY Times in October wrote, “Although Mr. Reagan did not elaborate on that occasion, he later explained that he was referring to his proposal to shift certain taxing powers and social programs such as welfare from the Federal to the state level. Most of those at the rally apparently regarded the statement as having been made in that context.” An audio tape of the event (discovered after Krugman’s column appeared) further debunks Krugman’s take, showing that Reagan only mentioned states’ rights once in a context that had nothing to do with race, and the speech itself was about economic policy and never mentioned race.
A second example that Krugman gave was that “Reagan repeatedly told the bogus story of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen — a gross exaggeration of a minor case of welfare fraud. He never mentioned the woman’s race, but he didn’t have to.” It turns out, however, as a wonderful investigative report [...]