Reagan on Hostage-Prisoner Exchange

(June 28, 1985)


In a meeting with community leaders in Chicago Heights, Illinois, the President was asked about an exchange of Israeli prisoners for hostages taken during TWA jet hijacking.

Reporter. Mr. President, the spokesman for the hostages said that the American people should raise hell to get Israel to release those prisoners. He said that this morning.

The President. I'm not going to comment on that or anything else. I only know that none of us, any country, can afford to pay off terrorists for the crimes that they're committing because that will only lead to more crimes.

Q. Will that be a payoff, sir? Israel releases the prisoners?

The President. I have commented several times on that, Chris [Chris Wallace, NBC News]. Israel had always intended to release them and had made that very clear. So, a linkage that has tied it to our hostages is something that never should have happened.

Q. Sir, David Stockman says that -- --

The President. I've only got a few minutes to eat spaghetti -- --

Q. Sir, David Stockman says -- --

The President. -- -- and I know that's what you all came in for -- you're hoping I'll spill it. [Laughter]

Q. David Stockman says that raising taxes is the only fiscal responsible way to go.

The President. He didn't say it. We know what he said. And the story is fallacious.

Q. He said the Times said, sir, that he said that some of the people in the administration on Capitol Hill had been using these phony numbers and probably ought to be in jail.

The President. No. We have the speech. We know exactly what he said, and it is a definite and deliberate misquote. And I'm not going to answer any more questions. Let me eat spaghetti.

Q. Are you going to keep him as budget director?

Q. Sir, as I always get to say, maybe just one more about the linkage of the 7 to the 39. Conwell also said he thought that was a terrible mistake to link the 7 hostages to the 39.

The President. I don't think anything that attempts to get people back who have been kidnaped by thugs and murderers and barbarians is wrong to do. And we are going to do everything that we can to get all of the Americans back that are held in that way.

Q. Are you making progress, Mr. President?

The President. I am not going to speculate. You know me -- I am superstitious. I never talk about a no-hitter if you're pitching one. [Laughter]

Q. Then you won't make a deal? Is that it? You won't make a deal?

The President. I am taking the spaghetti here. And I am asking Jim Thompson -- --

Q. Do you like spaghetti?

The President. I am asking Governor Jim Thompson to apply executive order -- he will declare -- because this is a working lunch, I understand -- answers and all. [Laughter] I am going to ask him to declare that it is all right to talk with your mouth full. [Laughter]

Q. Okay, then, does that mean -- --

Q. You won't ask the Israelis under any condition -- --

Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes. That is the end of it. The President says no more questions. So, let's scoot right out. Just turn right and go right out.

Q. Bon appetit.

Reporters. Thank you.


Source: Public Papers of the Presidents, Ronald Reagan, 1982