Politics

Barbara Walters disputes Ron Reagan’s book claims about father’s mental state

In Ron Reagan Jr.’s new book, “My Father at 100,” he says his father, President Ronald Reagan, exhibited signs of mental lapse during the end of his first term in office. And although Ron Reagan has since backtracked from some of those claims, there is still the question – did President Ronald Reagan show signs of mental deterioration while in office?

According to Barbara Walters, the answer is no. Walters was the moderator of the 1984 presidential debate between then-Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale and Reagan, which is where Ron Reagan alleged his father first showed signs of Alzheimer’s.

“The 100th birthday of President Ronald Reagan is coming up and his son has a new book, ‘My Father at 100,’ where he claims in the book that his father showed signs of Alzheimer’s during his first term in office – specifically mentions the 1984 presidential debate with Democrat Walter Mondale, where Ron, Jr. writes that his father looked lost and bewildered,” Walters said on ABC’s Tuesday broadcast of “The View.” “Well, as it happens, I was a moderator of that debate. It was in 1984. It was an hour and 40 minutes. That’s a long time. And maybe he stumbled over one answer or so forth. But I don’t remember — an hour and 40 minutes to answer questions and to answer questions from a panel, and he was with it.”

Those allegations have sparked a family feud between Ron Reagan and President Reagan’s adopted son Michael Reagan. (The two brothers haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on politics.) But according to Walters neither son was particularly close to the president during those years. She also claimed she spent more time with President Ronald Reagan than either son and always witnessed Reagan being of sound mind.

“Ron, Jr.’s half-brother Michael said this is not true. This didn’t happen,” she continued. “I’m going to say something that I probably saw more of President Reagan in those years than either of his sons. He was not really close to them. And I did interview after interview. I didn’t see any signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s or whatever until after he left office. Now, this morning, Ron Reagan, who is a very pleasant fellow and I like him a lot, was on ‘GMA’ and he said – he sort of disputed what he said. He said I didn’t say that. I said exactly the opposite. I did not see symptoms of dementia or anything like that when he was in office. I wasn’t thinking, ‘Gee I’m seeing signs of Alzheimer’s here.’ So his half-brother says he said all of this because he’s trying to sell books.”

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And as far as his mental state after he was shot in a 1981 assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr., Walters said President Reagan was fine then as well.

“Ron, Jr. also said he had already been shot, he’s in his mid-70s in the toughest job in the world and I’m worried about him all the time for all kind of reasons,” she said. “OK, I did a big interview – like six months, an hour’s interview with Reagan called ‘At Home on the Ranch.’ He was just fine. So the big question here is should this be something that, if he didn’t know, as you’re saying should he have speculated? On the other hand, it’s a son, a son who loved him and it’s going to sell books.”