A Young Steven Spielberg Meets the President
Question: What do you think about the news that people believe you're actually a
government agent for aliens because of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.?
Spielberg interview with Stephen Schaefer.
On June 27, 1982, a year after Reagan entered the White House, Ronald Reagan made one of his most famous alien remarks when he hosted Steven Spielberg in the White House. Spielberg was at the White House to present a private screening of his soon to be released movie called "ET: The Extraterrestrial." The movie dealt with a young extraterrestrial who becomes stranded on earth and struggles to return, while U.S. government agents try to capture him.
Movies were a big part of Reagans life before he became President, and he spent a lot of time while President watching movies either in the White House theater, or on the weekends at Camp David. White House records list 377 movies that Ron and Nancy Reagan had been shown. These included most of the Star Trek movies, and most of Steven Spielberg movies. In fact, two days before Spielberg arrived in Washington for the special screening of "E.T." The Reagans watched Spielbergs fictional ghost movie "Poltergeist."
Along with the Reagans and Spielberg, 35 people were invited to the special screening. Included in the list of distinguished guests was Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day OConnor. The event started with a reception in the Blue Room where the Reagans met with the invited guests. From there the group moved to the Red Room where the Presidential party had dinner. At 8:22 p.m., in the White House Theater the movie E.T. began.
The movie was one that moved the Reagans. "Nancy Reagan was crying towards the end, Spielberg recalled, "and the President looked like a ten-year-old-kid."
Following the screening the President leaned over, clapped Spielberg on the shoulder, and quietly commented, "You know, there arent six people in this room who know how true this really is." Unfortunately, the sudden press of people approaching Spielberg and the President, prevented Spielberg from pursuing the strange comment made by Reagan.
Spielberg stated that he had written the E.T. story as fiction based upon facts drawn from various UFO stories that had been told over the years. He must have been very shocked to hear from the President that it was all very true.
The model for the 1982 E.T. alien ended up being based on a snapping turtle embryo. It was given the eyes of Albert Einstein and the derriere of Donald Duck. Spielberg stated he intended to create "a creature only a mother could love."
Rumors, however, abounded that someone inside the government had told Spielberg that the alien model used in "Close Encounters" was too close to the truth, and the model had to be changed. The accusation was never proved and Spielberg has never commented on it.
Spielberg told the story of Reagan's "how true this is" comment to Hollywood television producer Jamie Shandera shortly after the incident occurred. This occurred while Shandera was helping a Japanese film crew who were making a documentary on Spielberg.
This author wrote to Spielberg in January 1988 to confirm the story, but the letter was cut off by Spielbergs publicity coordinator Kris Kelley who stated "unfortunately, Mr. Spielberg is currently away working on his next project and is unable to personally answer your question." Another researcher, Linda Howe who worked as a documentary film producer and author, also tried to interview Spielberg about his Reagan encounter without success.
Florida Today reporter Billy Cox also made an attempt to confirm the Spielberg story. He phoned Spielberg and ended up talking with Spielberg publicist Marvin Levy. Levy stated that "Mr. Spielberg does not wish to discuss any private conversation held with the President."
The White House files documented the thank-you letters sent from the White House to Spielberg. On July 12, 1982, President Reagan signed a letter addressed to Spielberg which stated,
Even more interesting in White House records found concerning the Spielberg screening of E.T. were records which showed a strange coincidence concerning the very next event on the Presidents schedule after the movie screening.
The showing of E.T. was the last event on June 27th. The very next event the next morning, June 28th, was a meeting between President Reagan and James A. Baker 111, Chief of Staff; Edwin Meese 111, Counselor; and Michael K. Deaver, Deputy Chief of Staff; met in the oval office. From there the four men went to the highly secure White House Situation Room where the President participated in a briefing of the U.S. Space Program. Participants included six members of the National Security Council or National Security Affairs and no one from NASA.
The absence of anyone from NASA for a briefing of the U.S. Space Program is unheard of. The absence of any NASA people is even more unusual, in light of the fact that a couple days later, President Reagan attended the landing of the U.S. Space Shuttle at Edwards Air Force Base.
The White House files also documented the thank-you letters sent from the White House to Spielberg. On July 12, 1982, President Reagan signed a letter addressed to Spielberg which stated,
Spielberg went on to show E.T. to the United Nations where he was introduced by Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, who would have his own dramatic UFO experience a couple years later. (complete story) Spielberg was presented the UN Peace medal by de Cuellar.
On December 9, Spielberg traveled to England where he screened the movie for Queen Elizabeth and to Prince Phillip, who was like Reagan, a UFO enthusiast .
Reagan Goes to Roswell
A couple months later, probably still inspired by the E.T. movie, President Reagan showed up in Roswell, New Mexico to give a speech for the re-election of Harrison (Jack) Schmitt. Schmitt was a Republican Senator from New Mexico who as an Apollo 17 astronaut was the last man to walk on the moon.
Schmitt, like Reagan was interested in the UFO phenomena. Like Reagan, Schmitt had publicly played both the investigator and the agnostic. On a positive note Schmitt declared, "If the government has any information on UFO's, it should be released to the public -- barring anything that might affect national security. We ought to be involved in a search to find out if there's any good evidence that UFOs really are spacecraft that are being piloted by extraterrestrial beings." Playing the conservative politician Schmitt stated, "The existence of intelligent life elsewhere in our universe is highly probable, given the huge number of sun-like stars that exist out there. That such life would visit our star and planet, however, is unlikely, but not impossible given the large number of choices it would have for such a visit. Further, the so-called UFOs have not done a very good job of communicating for life (that's) intelligent enough to travel between stars."
Schmitts actions spoke very strongly towards his interest in solving the UFO mystery. In 1979 during the peek wave of cattle mutilations Schmitt gathered together 200 policemen, cattlemen, investigators, FBI agents, and media men from 11 western states in Albuquerque for the only official investigation into the cattle mutilation phenomena. No solution to the problem was reached by the gathering, but only a few days later the justice Department offered money for an investigation.
Even more spectacular was Senator Schmitts involvement a year later in the case of Paul Bennewitz, an Albuquerque businessman who had contacted Kirkland Air Force base, USAF intelligence, and President Reagan about his claim that he was monitoring a base of aliens operating in the center of the Jicarilla Reservation in Northern New Mexico. On November 10 Bennewitz was invited to the Kirkland Air Force base to present his findings to a small group of officers and scientists. A week later, agent Richard Doty Bennewitz that the Air Force Office of Special Investigation (AFOSI) had decided against further consideration of the matter.
At this point Senator Schmitt involved himself in the case asking Doty asking what AFOSI was planning to do about Bennewitz's allegations. When informed that no investigation was planned, Schmitt spoke with Brig. Gen. William Brooksher of base security.
In this light, it came as no surprise that the re-election rally for Schmitt should be at the location of the most popular UFO story of the century, and that Reagan brought up the subject of extraterrestrials in his speech. Reagan began his speech
More important than the alien comments made by President Reagan, was the place that he made them - the Roswell Industrial Air Center - formally known as the Walker Air Force Base. It was at this base in 1947 where the wreckage and bodies of the Roswell flying saucer were rumored to have been taken from the crash outside of town.
Furthermore, Reagan made his speech near Hanger 84, which was the rumored hanger that was used to store UFO wreckage and/or bodies in July 1947. Like his famous speech at the Berlin wall where Reagan asked Gorbachev to "tear down this wall," the speech at the Roswell Hanger where the UFO mystery began was typical Reagan symbolism.