Was Reagan a snitch?

Reagan had long since quit the groups. To hear the media tell it, he did that because the FBI had — correctly — singled them out as communist fronts. But he and other liberals, such as actress Olivia de Havilland and writer-producer Dore Schary, realized that their efforts to champion honest liberalism within such organizations were in vain. Their celebrity and participation provided cover for the Communist Party’s true tactical intent within the motion picture industry. “We were the last front of respectability behind which they’d been hiding,” Reagan said in an unpublished interview.

It’s easy to read that the FBI listed Reagan as a “confidential informant” in Hollywood and jump to the conclusion that he was “a trusted supplier of tips to J. Edgar Hoover and company,” as the Mercury News put it. But in truth, Reagan did not add much to Hoover’s war against communism.

And Reagan’s choice to stand against communism was not inspired by an FBI witch-hunt. Rather, once Reagan saw the insidious nature of the party with his own eyes, he went from being a noncommunist liberal to an anti-communist liberal in a matter of weeks. “It isn’t a thing that we all got hysterical and dreamed up the Cold War,” Reagan said. “It was there.”