Ronald and Nancy Reagan believed in astrology. And they never tried to hide that – in fact, the Reagan astrology connection was confirmed by the White House in 1988.
The Reagans’ astrology beliefs
A report in Newsweek after Reagan was president hinted that the first family were believers in astrology. This make some people skeptical since the belief in the alignment of planets and stars having influence on human affairs raises some questions about presidential decision making. And since the Reagans seemed so mainstream, people had a hard time believing that they might live their lives in a way that was decidedly outside of the mainstream.
But the Reagans never hid it. Presumably, it didn’t come up a lot outside of the White House. But inside, Nancy Reagan, in particular, was a follower of astrology (which doesn’t mean she wasn’t also Christian, of course). But it would be a likely be a mistake to assume her husband just went along for the ride to make her happy.
In fact, former (but current at the time) White House spokesman, Marlin Fitzwater, told the New York Times in 1988 that Mrs. Reagan’s beliefs influenced some decision-making, especially when it came to scheduling important events.
It’s hardly any reason for concern. For his part, Ronald Reagan had assured anyone who asked that astrology never influenced his policy-making decisions. (Scheduling things on a Tuesday instead of a Friday or at 3pm instead of 4pm doesn’t typically change the course of human affairs.)
In other words, it’s interesting and surprising, but it’s not that big of a deal to most people.
Was there controversy about the Reagans’ astrological beliefs?
No one watched the White House with the kind of scrutiny we do today. There were no 24-hour news stations or websites, after all.
You’ll find the majority of the information about the role astrology played in the White House in the memoirs of Donald T. Regan (no relation, especially considering the spelling of the name) in a memoir called Inauguration After Midnight.
The book’s title references Reagan’s inauguration as Governor of California in January 1967 which took place after midnight – at 12:10 A.M. “News reports at the time said the decision was made to take advantage of favorable astrological portents,” said the Times, referencing information from officials.
According to the NYT (cited below), Fitzwater said “Mr. Fitzwater said Mrs. Reagan is particularly worried about the impact astrological portents can have on her husband’s safety. But he declined to say exactly how Mrs. Reagan had used astrological information.”
Nancy Reagan’s concerns
We can’t say for sure what the president believed, but we do know it was Nancy Reagan who consulted astrologers for the most part. In the White House response to the controversy in 1988, he said: ”It’s true that Mrs. Reagan has an interest in astrology. She has for some time, particularly following the assassination attempt in March of 1981. She was very concerned for her husband’s welfare, and astrology has been part of her concern in terms of his activities.”
Of course, the California inauguration would indicate that her concerns went back further.
In any case, the couple was seemingly bothered that people made a big deal out of it. ”They both feel it’s unfortunate and a distraction and hardly relevant to the business of government,” Fitzwater said.
A former White House aid also downplayed the role of astrology, saying that Mrs. Reagan simply believed her husband needed more downtime in his schedule. Of course, both things might be true. Nancy Reagon was well-known to be interested in astrology and didn’t hide her own interest.
The Evening News
It’s no surprise that the former First Lady may have become more interested in astrology after the assassination attempt on her husband in 1981. The NYT notes that Ted Koppel reported on the ABC News show “Nightline” that “he had learned that before the President was shot on March 30, 1981, an astrologer warned Mrs. Reagan that something bad would happen that day. Mr. Koppel declined to identify the source of his information.
Tracking presidential astrology
Reagan was still president when this came out, but it never did any damage to his reputation. It was simply titillating to people because we have an innate desire to peek into people’s private lives and react to whatever seems most salacious.
Even before the reports there were people tracking the Reagans’ interest in astrology since it was so out-of-the-oridinary, especially for the Reagan “brand.” Most people doubted the president would have come to astrology on his own and was never an avid believer but that the knowledge did have some impact on him.
The White House made light of the story in 1988, with Mr. Fitzwater opened his briefing by saying, ”I’ll take your first question at exactly 12:33 and a half.”
In any case, the Reagans’ interest in astrology was right in line with their life as celebrities in 1930s and 40s California. And Ronald Reagan would not have been the first president interested in astrology – both Roosevelts were as well. – WTF fun facts