Episode 68 features a discussion with Nick Dagan Best about the famous astrologer Joan Quigley and her work for Ronald and Nancy Reagan while they were at the White House.
Nancy Reagan passed away recently, on Sunday March 6, 2016, and her use of astrology to help her husband while he was president was mentioned in her obituary. This became a major story in May 1988 after an exposé was published detailing Nancy’s consultations with an astrologer to choose promising dates for her husband’s political activities.
However, some of the details surrounding this story are still unclear, so the purpose of this episode is to put together all of the known facts and to discuss what we know and don’t know about the use of Reagan astrology.
I’ll include a larger set of notes below than I usually do, followed by links to download or stream the recording at the bottom of the page. I do this primarily for search purposes, and people should listen to the full discussion before commenting on the episode as we mainly used the notes as a starting point for the discussion.
Extended show notes
In-depth review of the points we raised over the course of the episode:
- The origin of this show is that Nancy Reagan recently passed away on Sunday March 6th, 2016.
- The New York Times published an interesting and touching obituary mentioning her use of astrology.
- I was surprised that it looked like she didn’t turn to astrology until after the March 30, 1981 assassination attempt.
- This was part of the damage control narrative after the story broke in 1988.
- The problem with the narrative is that before 1981 the Reagans had consulted astrologers.
- The purpose of this episode is to provide an overview of what happened and to discuss some outstanding questions and issues that are still the subject of discussion.
The course of the controversy
- In early May 1988, the media began talking about a new book brought out by Reagan’s former White House chief of staff Donald Regan.
- The press had a great day on the story and it became a media sensation.
- The White House was forced to issue a statement as to whether it was true.
- The press quickly identifies the mysterious astrologer Nancy consulted with: Joan Quigley.
- The following year, 1989, Nancy published a book called It’s my turn.
- Devotes a chapter to the astrology controversy.
- Tries to formulate the use of astrology in response to the assassination attempt
- Call it an emotional crutch that has become a habit.
- Acknowledges previous interactions with Quigley prior to 1981, but downplays it.
- The husband was only made aware of this later, but does not say when.
- A year later, in 1990, Quigley published her own book.
- Entitled “What Does Joan Say?” My seven years as an astrologer in the White House for Nancy and Ronald Reagan.
- Tried to make it clear what she did and didn’t do for her.
- Gives a detailed account of their relationship and work with the Reagan.
How long had Quigley worked for the Reagans?
- They first met on the Merv Griffin Show in 1973.
- Quigley says Nancy was a customer from 1973 to 1976. I met Nancy 76 in person.
- Quigley and Nancy both admit that some work was done during the 1980 campaign
- Quigley says she picked the timing to debate with Carter.
- Says she tried to pick a chart that would be problematic for Carter.
- Both seem to acknowledge that cooperation intensified after the attempted assassination.
- The last time they talked was in April 1988, before the media story broke.
Had the Reagans used astrology in the past?
- When Reagan became governor of California in 1967, they may have used one election for his inauguration.
- The inauguration was postponed and took place at an odd time, January 2, 1967 at 12:10 p.m. Nick says at 12:14 p.m.
- The NYT says news reports at the time speculated that this was due to astrology.
- His then executive secretary tried to reject the rumors, saying, “He doesn’t believe in astrology. He doesn’t let the stars guide him. “
Other astrologers before Quigley
- Reagan was friends with the astrologer Carroll Righter.
- He was a popular Sun Sign columnist with many celebrity clients in Hollywood.
- First connection with the Reagan as actors.
- Ronald Reagan called Righter a “good friend” in his 1965 autobiography, “Where’s the Rest of Me?”
- Reagan confirmed that they had read his column and said, “Every morning Nancy and I turn around to see what he has to say about people with our respective birth signs.”
- Righter is presumably who they consulted with in the ’60s and’ 70s, and People Magazine on 88 suggested he was behind the midnight 67 initiation table.
- Oddly enough, he died on April 30, 1988, which was correct when the astrology story came to be known.
- In 1966, clairvoyant / astrologer / whatever Jean Dixon predicted on the Mike Douglas Show that Reagan would become president.
- In his book, Don Regan said that the Reagan consulted with her from the time he was governor, but then at some point she fell out of favor with them.
Did Ronald Reagan Believe in Astrology?
- This is still a point of contention.
- It seems like Nancy was part of damage control falling for it in the late 1980s.
- in the It’s my turn Nancy says Ronald didn’t know about it and when she finally told him he said, ok but be careful as people would be upset if it came out.
- In his diary, when the story became known, he writes as if everything was wrong and they don’t know an astrologer.
- Later books on Reagan like God and Ronald Reagan For the most part, paint it like it was all Nancy, and Reagan wasn’t into astrology, just spoiling his wife.
- Quigley tries to bring this up, but virtually all of her interactions have been with Nancy.
- Quigley says there were a couple of points Reagan asked about Nancy specifically, such as what should be done after the Challenger disaster.
- The extent to which astrology has been used in the White House makes it unlikely that Ronald Reagan would not be aware of it.
- Something had to be seriously wrong for him to be this ignorant, especially when it came to changing the times for signing important contracts or firing his chief of staff for disagreeing with Nancy on astrology.
- Maybe if Alzheimer’s had started, but even then it seems unlikely.
- Some coworkers later said that his belief in astrology would seem out of character, while others said it would be consistent with what they knew about him.
- Three employees cited in God and Reagan said they never heard Reagan talk about astrology and it seemed like it was out of character.
- Colin Powell said that, given Reagan’s other quasi-mystical beliefs, it seemed characterful.
- Ultimately, it seems difficult to say.
- Reagan’s team may have seen this damaged their reputation in 1988 and may have chosen to keep their personal views about it a secret. Unfortunately, we can never know for sure.
How did Quigley use astrology for the Reagans?
- Mostly appointments for press conferences, speeches, trips and other public appearances. Too many to mention. Some of the more notable ones are listed below:
- 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter.
- He voted the charts for the start of Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984.
- Choosing the times for the debates between Reagan and Mondale during the 1984
- She selected the electoral list for Reagan’s second inauguration.
- Quigley selected Nancy’s mastectomy operation list in 1987.
- Selected time for the announcement of Anthony Kennedy’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
- Chosen times for important negotiations between Reagan and Gorbachev, for example for the important Reykjavik summit.
- In 1987 he selected the charts for the signing of the Treaty on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Missiles between the United States and the Soviet Union.
- Rat Reagan, to remain silent for long periods of time during the Iran-Contra scandal.
A full transcript of this episode is available here: Episode 68 Transcript
Listen to this episode
You can either play this episode of the podcast directly from the website or download it as an MP3 to your computer using the following buttons: