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Jon Breen dies, 1980 GOP debate moderator tried to silence Reagan

Republican candidates Ronald Reagan, left, and George H.W.

Republican candidates Ronald Reagan, left, and George H.W. Bush, right, take part in a debate in Nashua, N.H., moderated by Jon Breen in 1980. Credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

DOVER, N.H. — The former New Hampshire newspaper editor who prompted a testy “I am paying for this microphone” retort from Ronald Reagan in a 1980 presidential primary debate has died.

Jon Breen was executive editor of The Telegraph of Nashua when he moderated the televised debate Feb. 23, 1980.

The Hyder Family Hospice House says Breen died at the Dover residence Sept. 14. He was 81.

Reagan campaign money financed the debate but the newspaper set the ground rules and invited only the front-runners, Reagan and George H.W. Bush. At the start, Reagan insisted all the GOP candidates should participate.

Breen disagreed and finally asked that Reagan’s microphone be turned off.

Reagan fired back: “I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green,” flubbing Breen’s name.

Reagan went on to win two terms.

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