Saying he hopes his daughter Patti Davis makes "a lot of money" on her new novel, President Reagan told reporters yesterday that he didn't use his influence to get two TV talk shows to cancel her appearances.
"No. No," Reagan insisted during a photo opportunity at the White House when ABC correspondent Sam Donaldson asked if he or Nancy Reagan had put any pressure on Merv Griffin or Joan Rivers to drop Patti Davis from their shows.
"Why not?" asked United Press International's Helen Thomas.
Everybody started to laugh, including the president.
Donaldson then noted that "some people" have said "Home Front" -- Davis' admittedly autobiographical if also fictional story of a rebellious daughter of a California governor who later becomes president -- is not very good literature.
Reagan, who read the book in February, shrugged his shoulders and once again called it "interesting fiction."
Yesterday's exchange came after Reagan had seen special envoy Philip Habib, who was leaving on a fact-finding diplomatic mission to Central America, into his limousine. He was on the walkway returning to the Oval Office when asked if he had exerted any influence in getting Davis' TV interviews dropped.
Davis was notified two hours before she was scheduled to go on the "Tonight" show, which Rivers was hosting last week, that her appearance had been dropped. In late February, Griffin also canceled her appearance on his show.
Yesterday, Nancy Kahan, associate publisher of Crown, which published "Home Front," said Davis has "no further comment" on developments. Davis returned to Los Angeles from Chicago Tuesday night to "take a breather" in her book promotion tour. She will resume the tour next week with appearances in San Francisco and Seattle.
Meanwhile, the flap between the "Tonight" show and Joan Rivers over who is responsible for booking and deleting guests from the popular talk show went unresolved.
Rivers' spokesman Richard Grant said yesterday he had "not even talked to Joan" about the booking controversy because "I didn't see any reason to."
"Joan Rivers does not book the talent for the 'Tonight' show. Joan Rivers is a salaried hostess for NBC," Grant said.
Asked about "Tonight" show executive producer Fred de Cordova's statement Tuesday that "the show's staff does not book anybody who is not suggested by the host or hostess, or is not discussed in advance by the host or hostess," Grant replied:
"Well, somebody is lying.