Regarding the Iran–Contra affair, Reagan maintained that he authorized the sale of weapons to Iran during a US embargo on weapons dealing with Iran in exchange for the freeing of seven American hostages taken by Hezbollah in Lebanon. This position may have been a politically effective response, as the public could be swayed by the image of a controversial act being done in defense of human lives.
However, the New York Times ran an article that exposed the timeline of the weapons dealing to Iran, with the first trade occurring before any hostages were taken in Lebanon. Therefore, Reagan could not effectively maintain the credibility of his reasoning for the weapons trade. The White House administration and Reagan went back and forth on their explanation of the weapons dealing with Iran, first saying that they did it for the hostages, then rescinding this statement, and finally once again maintaining that they did in fact trade weapons for American hostages. In Reagan's final statement, he claimed that "what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages."
The intensely conservative, anti-communist climate of the Reagan era likely led to continued support of Reagan regardless of his corrupt dealings, as the weapons that were sent to Iran were ultimately sent to aid the right-wing, anti-communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua. While there was some public backlash, Reagan was able to mostly maintain his image, and he left his presidency with one of the highest approval ratings of any president since Franklin D. Roosevelt.