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Michael Reagan Rips Half-Brother Ron Over Book and Alzheimer's Claim

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Michael Reagan blasted as "falsehoods and lies and conspiracy theories to sell books," the suggestion by half-brother Ron Reagan that their father may have had Alzheimer's disease while still in the White House.

"In order for that that happen, you would have to have doctors, the Secret Service and other family members all part of the same conspiracy," he told Politics Daily. Reagan's diagnosis of Alzheimer's was not announced publicly until 1994, five years after he left office.

Michael ripped the excerpt from Ron's book, "My Father at 100," that appears in Sunday's Parade magazine. Ron Jr. cites a 1989 post-presidential visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota after a riding accident. "Surgeons opening his skull to relieve pressure on the brain emerged from the operating room with the news that they had detected probable signs of Alzheimer's disease. Further tests conducted the following year confirmed those suspicions."

Ron dates his suspicions about the disease to the 1984 re-election campaign. "I felt the first shivers of concern that something beyond mellowing was affecting my father" during the first debate against Democratic nominee Walter Mondale. "My heart sank as he floundered his way through his responses. He looked tired and bewildered." Ron Jr. also notes that by 1986 his father couldn't remember the names of familiar canyons when flying over California, adding that doctors now know the disease can go unrecognized for some time. "The question, then, of whether my father suffered from the beginning stages of Alzheimer's while in office more or less answers itself," he writes.

"Nobody was happy with the debate," Michael told me by phone from Miami. But Ron's suggestion of early onset of the disease "is the last thing I would have expected from him, to take this kind of shot at his Dad with no evidence except he watched a debate between Dad and Mondale."

The semi-siblings who haven't spoken in years, are political and religious opposites. Michael Reagan, 65, is a conservative former radio talk show host who was adopted by Reagan and his first wife, actress Jane Wyman. He sired the Gipper's only two grandchildren with longtime wife, Colleen, and is a regular churchgoer.

Ron, 52, the natural son of Reagan and his second wife, actress and former first lady Nancy Davis Reagan, is a liberal former talk show host on the defunct left-ish Air America network. He is also a self-professed atheist.

, who hopes to become a GOP political consultant, told me that as the author of a half dozen books, "I know publishers want to have that 'ah-ha' moment, something to put out to promote the book. But to go to this extent to just tell falsehoods and lies and conspiracy theories to get it out there, is outrageous. Really, to do this to his mother at 89 and as fragile as she can be, Ron and Patti (Davis) are the only two children she's got, and for him to do this just to sell a book, I mean it's just unconscionable. There are enough great stories he could share that would make news, great 'inside baseball' stories."

U.S. News & World Report reported Friday that although Ron, "who became a liberal and atheist, disappointing his dad" writes about presidential brain surgery in San Diego, "there is no reporting about any San Diego operation on Reagan. News reports at the time of his fall say Reagan was flown to a hospital in Arizona, where he was treated for scrapes and bruises and released after five hours." The U.S. News blog Washington Whispers, which first reported the Ron Reagan story, also notes that the president's four White House doctors said they saw no evidence Reagan had Alzheimer's while in office.

"Basically Ron has my dad looking like the Congresswoman in Arizona, with his head shaved and half his brain exposed," Michael Reagan told me. He was referring to Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head during last Saturday's Tucson massacre. "I saw my father on and off and I never saw anything that looked like that. Certainly he would have shared that story."

Michael readily admits he is estranged from both Ron and half-sister Patti Davis, whose liberal views also caused her parents grief over the years. In 2005 she wrote "The Long Goodbye," a loving, first-person account of her father's decline into dementia that starts in 1995, six years after he left Washington.

Michael says he hasn't spoken to Ron since the reading their father's will after his death in 2004. While he refused to discuss inheritance details, he says, "it wasn't enough for Ron or for anybody to retire on...I hope Patti doesn't come out and try to support Ron. He needs to own this deal because it's a conspiracy theory that everybody has to be involved in, including my father's own children."

On Friday, the Ronald Reagan Foundation and Library in Simi Valley, Cal., issued a statement calling Ron's book "wonderfully warm and engaging." But, "as for the topic of Alzheimer's, this subject has been well documented over the years by both President Reagan's personal physicians, physicians who treated him after the diagnosis, as well as those who worked closely with him daily. All are consistent in their view that signs of Alzheimer's did not appear until well after President Reagan left the White House."

Ron Reagan's national publicity tour kicks into high gear next week, culminating with his father's 100th birthday Feb. 6. Michael is also taking advantage of his father's centennial with a book of his own, "The New Reagan Revolution."
Tagged: reagan

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As the son of a 92 year old mother with severe Alzheimer's, I find it strange that Michael would find it mentioning it to be a "pot shot," like somehow Alzheimer's was a kind of moral failing, something that one needs to be ashamed of, rather than a disease. The early stages are often hard to discern, as most of us have memory lapses as we age. Things like confusion intrude for a moment, then the person is back to their usual self. If surgeons found physical evidence of the disease in 1989, it clearly would have started years before, as it is a very slowly progressing disease. If Michael is mad at his brother for thinking for himself, he should find another excuse to be indignant.

February 06 2011 at 10:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought Michael was adopted. That would make Ron his ??? Half brother?

January 20 2011 at 12:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ronald and Nancy Reagan were "B" level movie actors whose careers were in major decline. They, more or less, lucked into positions of power. Alzheimer's does not appear overnight like the common cold. It develops over years. For a long time the people around the actress Rita Hayworth thought she was merely a drunk. Mr. Reagan had to constantly be told what to do and reminded of what he was about. If he wasn't impaired he was, at best, ill-prepared. When he ran for president he insisted that his son Ron marry as he was a ballet dancer and the implication would be that he was gay. He made many odd declarations over the years, my favorite being that ketchup was considered a vegetable in school lunches. The kindest thing I can say about Mrs. Reagan is that she cut a far more elegant figure as First Lady than she ever did as an actress.

January 19 2011 at 10:52 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ekurtg's comment


January 19 2011 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Reagan, while he was President, talked about his tour of duty during World War II when he helped to liberate a concentration camp. That never happened. Reagan never left the US during World War II. That was when I thought he was suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's disease takes years to identify.

January 19 2011 at 9:26 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to fullsrvlaw's comment

Reagan was in the Army from 1935- 1945 and in the Army Reserves until 1953. He left with the rank of Major. He was also Commander and Cheif the all the Services for 8 years. True he never left the USA. It is true that it is rumored that he had made conversation of the liberation of concentration camps, but never proven.

January 19 2011 at 9:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Reagan's fable about being present at the liberation of concentration camps is noted in Lou Cannon's definitive biography of Reagan. It was also reported in the American and Israeli press in November 1983 when he told the story at a dinner for the Isreali president. The account was corroborated by an Israeli cabinet minister. It is inconceivable that someone like Barack Obama would get away with such an outrageous whopper. But now 25 years later, the sainted Reagan can still do no wrong in the eyes of many.

February 04 2011 at 11:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Young Ron Reagan is one of the last persons I would consult for an evaluation of disrupted thinking processes.

January 17 2011 at 3:17 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

I don't feel that a thought process before speaking, or the use of note cards is an indication of alzheimers. If they were Obama is in his late stages of Alzheimers. Obama's misstatment of 57 states, his Muslim religion and his inability to almost put together a sentence when asked a question without the use of the Teleprompter. Reagan was a Great President and did have a lot more years of experience and a much geater difference in age.

January 17 2011 at 12:54 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jgr414155's comment

Obama is not a Muslim. He is a professional writer. He earned over 8 million dollars writing two bestsellers. He often speaks and answers questions without the use of a teleprompter. Get your facts straight.

January 19 2011 at 9:28 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I am a mental health professional and most people who are not trained or have had a family member with dementia or alzheimer's would not recognize it in another--particularly a well managed and protected president of the United States. With that being said, it was obvious to me and others I associated with in the fields of psychology and mental health that Reagan was showing signs of age related dementia or TIA's even at the very onset of his presidency and by his second term signs of alzheimer's. My mother who is now 92 has alzheimer's and in hindsight to my family now we realize that it began when she was 80. It begins in ways that family and friends make excuses for and rationalizations for their moments of altered behavior, personality differences, short term memory lapses, the inability to have or give a concise, fluid, coherent, speech or conversation. In Reagan's case when he would often get off track while speaking he would ramble and tell a story about something in his past or someone in his past--it is always initially the short term memory that is affected--so, people with dementia and alzheimer's can remember past events fairly well so this is what they rely on--until their language skills and intellectual capacity fade--and it is often very gradual. Additionally, people with developing dementia and/or alzheimer's can cognitively/intellectually fluctuate where on one occasion they appear sharp and all seems fine and then the next day they cannot find the words or they ramble and their memory has lapses. Again, unless you have direct long term experience or are a trained professional many/most people would not recognize the signs--And, in the case with President Reagan many just opted to wear blinders or shades or look the other way or make excuses for something that was too painful to face--likely including his staff and doctors~

January 16 2011 at 10:12 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

President Regan even if he did have alzheimer's in the early stages was a remarkable man and one that has yet to be surpassed by todays version of leader.

January 16 2011 at 9:43 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

I am a senior citizen, and for as long as I can remember, President Reagan had a
"hesitancy" in his speech> I attributed this to "taking in what was said" and
making sure his answers were correct and to the point" Dear God, that is not a
case of dementia !!! I have even noticed in some of his old films, the same thing !
Michael, I am with you ! President Reagan was a giant in my eyes and I commend
you for your faith, and standing up for you Dad.

January 16 2011 at 9:33 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

There my not have been "intentional" cover up of Reagen's cognitive decline. This was 20 years ago, and much more is known of early indicators of Alzheimer's disease now. I think most clinicians NOW would say that if evidence of advanced cortical atrophy was evident in 1989, then he was pretty well into the disease process. I am no fan of fmr. President Reagen, nor have I ever been. I think many want to preserve his dignity.

The fact of the matter is that higher cognitive functions were in decline: complex attention, executive functions such as reasoning and judgement, reaction and processing time.

I don't know how much of history would have changed...but I do think we need to take this issue into consideration for future presidential candidates of advanced age. We have a right to know the health and condition of the leader of our country, whether he has Parkinsons, M.S., had a stroke, a brain injury. I can tell you that most physicians and lawyers would have been in retirement if they had similar presentations, for the safety of their patients and clients.

I will concede that is probably very hard to acknowledge the shortcomings of a leader you admired, and to justify it. I know I did when news of Clintons wrongdoings came to light. Still loved him as President, but he has some major impulse control issues.

January 16 2011 at 7:12 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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