Trump Campaign, RNC Told by Reagan Foundation to Stop Using Former President's Likeness for Fundraising

The Trump Make America Great Again Committee, which raises money for the president's re-election and the Republican National Committee, was ordered by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute to stop using the former president's likeness for fundraising.

"We heard last week that the RNC was selling a commemorative Reagan/Trump coin," Reagan Foundation chief marketing officer Melissa Giller told Newsweek in a Sunday email. "The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute owns the name, image, and likeness of President Reagan and they used his image for the coin without our consent. We called the RNC and asked them to cease and desist the use of President Reagan on the coin and they agreed."

Giller first confirmed the news to The Washington Post, pointing out that the demand "was simply handled with a phone call mid-last week to the RNC, and they agreed to stop." Although the campaign agreed quickly to end the campaign, Giller told The Post that the foundation was still looking into the incident and may get lawyers involved moving forward.

Reagan and Trump
President Ronald Reagan makes a stump speech in front of a large American flag, and President Donald Trump waves upon arrival to Morristown Municipal Airport, New Jersey on July 24 ©Wally McNamee/CORBIS/NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty

A spokesperson for President Donald Trump's re-election campaign referred Newsweek to the RNC for comment.

Michael Ahrens, RNC communications director, expressed surprise at the Reagan Foundation's demand in a statement emailed to Newsweek.

"President Reagan was a proud Republican and supporter of a party that has carried on his fight for conservative principles of economic opportunity and limited government. His likeness is used by thousands of Republicans each year who gather around the country for 'Reagan Dinners,' and his library regularly hosts debates for our presidential candidates," Ahrens said.

"Given that the Reagan Foundation just recently hosted the Trump family to raise money for its organization and has not objected to us using President Reagan's likeness before, their objection came as a surprise. Even though we believe our use of the image was appropriate, we will stop emailing this fundraising solicitation as a courtesy," he said.

The demand from the foundation came after the Trump campaign sent out a July 19 fundraising email, asking supporters to contribute $45 or more to receive a "limited edition" set of gold coins with images of Trump and Reagan. The set also came with a photograph of the current president meeting the former president and shaking hands at the White House in 1987.

"I've authorized a very limited production of these iconic coins, which is why I'm ONLY offering them to our top supporters, like YOU. This offer is NOT available to the general public, so please, do NOT share this email with anyone," the fundraising email, which was purportedly sent by Trump, said.

Trump has previously tried to promote himself using his predecessor's name. In July 2019, the president shared a meme featuring a fake quote attributed to Reagan. The quote says: "For the life of me, and I'll never know how to explain it, when I met that young man, I felt like I was the one shaking hands with the president." Trump dubbed the meme "Cute!" when he shared it.

The chief administrative officer of the Reagan Foundation had previously confirmed to the PolitiFact website that the former president "did not ever say that about Donald Trump."

Updated July 26, 2020, 12:41 p.m. ET to include a statement from Reagan Foundation chief marketing officer Melissa Giller.