WASHINGTON — President Reagan said today that he has seen no evidence "that I've been mortally wounded" by the Iran- contra scandal and that Americans do not "seem to be unhappy about what we've been doing here."
Reagan also said he and his aides talked of paying money to achieve "a rescue" of American hostages, "but I never thought of that as ransom."
Reagan made his comments in a question-and-answer session with out-of-town editors and reporters.
Asked whether he had been damaged by Iran-contra, Reagan recalled a Scottish ballad, saying, "Yes, I've been wounded. I'll lie me down and rest a bit and then I'll fight again."
Moments later, he returned to the question and said he travels extensively around the country, meeting with different types of people.
"I haven't seen any evidence that I've been mortally wounded nor do the people seem to be unhappy about what we've been doing here," Reagan said. Previously, he has acknowledged that he has been hurt by the affair.
Asked about a claim by his former national security adviser, Robert C. McFarlane, that Reagan had approved paying $2 million in bribes and ransom in an effort to free American hostages in Lebanon, Reagan said:
"I am having some trouble remembering that. I don't recall ever anything being suggested in the line of ransom.".
Reagan said, "From the very first we would not pay a ransom to kidnapers because it's only going to cause more taking of hostages."
He said the Administration is constantly seeking ways to win the release of the hostages.
"It is possible that what we were talking about was use of money to pay people and hire individuals who could effect a rescue of our people there, and I've never thought of that as a ransom," he said, adding, "I would suggest that never would it be termed ransom, because (we said) that from the very first we would not pay a ransom to kidnapers because it's only going to cause more taking of hostages."
Reagan pointed out that the discussion about payments for hostages occurred about the time he was hospitalized in July, 1985, for cancer surgery.
"Again, I'm having some trouble just as Bud (McFarlane) had some trouble himself with some of the questions that were asked him--there was an awful lot going on. It's awful easy to be a little short of memory," Reagan said.
The President also declared anew that he was unaware of the alleged diversion of funds from arms sales to Iran to the contra rebels in Nicaragua.
At the same time, Reagan said he was kept briefed about efforts to support the contras. "There is no question about my being informed," Reagan said. "I was very definitely involved in the decisions about support to the freedom fighters."
Asked for his view on adding color to such old black-and-white movies as his "Bedtime for Bonzo" and "The Knute Rockne Story," Reagan said he questions whether that's a problem to be settled by government.
He said he can understand the artistic arguments raised against colorization but added, "I can understand the business problems of those who invested the money and who own the films and who know now that there isn't a market for black-and-white."