Thatcher Hostile NY Times Reporter Sarah Lyall Takes Arbitrary Swipe at Ronald Reagan

London-based New York Times reporter Sarah Lyall included an arbitrary crack at the late Ronald Reagan in "Blair Memoir a Hit, Despite a Few Hard Knocks," her front-page dispatch on former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's popular new memoir. Citing a report accusing Blair of swiping an anecdote about Queen Elizabeth II from a recent movie, she quoted screenwriter Peter Morgan but also interjected her own jab at the former American president: "Mr. Morgan told The Daily Telegraph, perhaps Mr. Blair 'had one gin and tonic too many' and - like Ronald Reagan before him - 'confused the scene in the film with what actually happened.'"

Lyall didn't even wait for the jump page before arbitrarily bashing Reagan in her Thursday piece:

"You are my 10th prime minister," Queen Elizabeth observes to Tony Blair when she meets him at Buckingham Palace on his first day in office in 1997, according to "A Journey: My Political Life," Mr. Blair's new memoir. "The first was Winston. That was before you were born."

Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, leaving a studio in London on Monday after a television interview. His autobiography has sold 92,000 copies in hardcover in less than a week.

It is a memorable scene, one that (along with another one depicting Prince Philip manning the barbecue at a family cookout) has reportedly displeased the queen, since it is considered rude and uncouth for prime ministers to reveal secret details about private encounters with the royal family. But in what was the latest curveball in the carefully choreographed publicity campaign for Mr. Blair's book, it turns out that the queen may not have actually said what Mr. Blair claims she said.

Or maybe she did, but only in the movies. In "The Queen," the 2006 film about the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, Helen Mirren, playing Elizabeth, greets Michael Sheen, playing Mr. Blair, saying in part: "You are my 10th prime minister, Mr. Blair. My first was Winston Churchill."

Peter Morgan, screenwriter of "The Queen," said that the scene in the film was entirely fictional, based on his imagination. Since it is unlikely that he "guessed absolutely perfectly," Mr. Morgan told The Daily Telegraph, perhaps Mr. Blair "had one gin and tonic too many" and - like Ronald Reagan before him - "confused the scene in the film with what actually happened."

The actual Telegraph article quoting Morgan made no reference to Reagan, suggesting Lyall shoe-horned in a personal view. If so, Lyall is repeating the long-time liberal line that Reagan, a former Hollywood actor, confused movies with reality.

Lyall doesn't much like Reagan ally Margaret Thatcher either, writing in March: "In the eyes of many Britons, the Tories' traditional social elitism is tied to another form of elitism - what they perceive as the callous policies of the haves toward the have-nots in the Thatcher era."

- Clay Waters is director of Times Watch. You can follow him on Twitter.