"My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."
Such were the words that came out of Ronald Reagan's mouth in jest during a sound check in preparation for his weekly National Public Radio address.
So what was he actually planning on saying as his opening liner? "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you that today I signed legislation that will allow student religious groups to begin enjoying a right they've too long been denied — the freedom to meet in public high schools during nonschool hours, just as other student groups are allowed to do."
Counter to the myth that his bombing joke was broadcast live, it was actually leaked later to the public. But Reagan's gaffe—made during the height of the Cold War—was still taken seriously by the Soviets who stood on alert for 30 minutes, reports a Tokyo newspaper in October 1984.