But neither the TVA nor the ratings were likely the whole reason that GE dumped Reagan. While the aftermath of the price-fixing scandal was still playing out, Reagan emerged as the linchpin in another criminal antitrust investigation in early 1962, this one targeting Hollywood. At issue was what the Screen Actors Guild had done for MCA. With the help of the “blanket waiver,” MCA had become “the octopus,” a quasi-monopoly controlling 60 percent of the entertainment business. Given that Reagan had signed the waiver as president of SAG in 1952, he was at the center of what was now a budding scandal. The U.S. attorney general, Robert Kennedy, convened a federal grand jury in Los Angeles to consider criminal charges.
MTP HOST CHUCK TODD: He (Reagan) gets invited to debate Bobby Kennedy. Tell me how that came about and tell me about how this relationship really became pretty antagonistic.
REED: It has its basis in the early '60s when Mr. Bobby Kennedy became attorney general. He was a very hard-edged politician and once he was attorney general he pursued organized crime but he also began to use the powers of office to harass the political opponents of the Kennedy family. In February of 1962 Kennedy's Justice Department hauls Ronald Reagan before a grand jury in Los Angeles to look into the activities of the Screen Actors Guild and their relationships with the agencies. Two weeks later, after that interrogation, the Justice Department subpoenas Reagan's tax returns. That is bad enough in itself but then, two months after that, Reagan gets the word that his gig on the General Electric Theater has been canceled. He tells his son who I've talked to, he said at a Sunday lunch, he said, Michael, I lost my job today, that I learned that from Ralph Cordiner, the chairman of General Electric, that Bobby Kennedy called and threatened contract cancellations if they don't get me off the air.
Now other writers have said the Screen Actors, the General Electric Theater was losing market share and so forth, but Reagan thought Kennedy called to get him ...
TODD: In his mind he believed Bobby Kennedy cost him his job. Now the debate, the infamous debate between Bobby Kennedy and Ronald Reagan which, you know, if the speech in '64 sort of put Ronald Reagan on the national map with conservatives, that '68, the debate with Bobby Kennedy before '68, that in your book, you say that is what essentially convinced Reagan to give a presidential run a shot.
REED: He absolutely did. It was called the Telstar debate, it was a satellite in the early days of satellites, Kennedy in the east, Reagan in California, students over in the city of London asking questions about American foreign policy. Reagan studied for that as though it was a presidential debate, he was ready. Kennedy staffers admitted that he didn't do much preparation. Reagan absolutely mopped the floor with Kennedy, it was a big triumph. But that wasn't enough. Suddenly, not suddenly but when it's 1968 (the Reagan-Kennedy debate took place in May 1967), Johnson's out and Kennedy is suddenly running for president, that was the trigger that really energized Reagan to say, here's a chance for settlement with Bobby Kennedy on the biggest stage in the world. And that's one of the key reasons why his '68 campaign really came to life.
GE and Reagan | National Review Online
Some of the content of the speech, however, proved controversial for GE, in particular Reagan’s opposition to the Tennessee Valley Authority. In The Education of Ronald Reagan: The General Electric Years and the Untold Story of His Conversion to Conservatism, author Thomas Evans reveals that a government official had complained to GE CEO Ralph Cordiner about Reagan using the TVA as an example of government waste, suggesting that a $50 billion government contract might go elsewhere. GE pressured Reagan to remove any reference to the TVA from his speeches. It was the first of many conflicts of interests that led to GE firing him in 1962. After leaving GE, Ronald Reagan switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.