Book: Nixon Took Mood-Altering Drug, Beat Wife

N E W   Y O R K, Aug. 27, 2000 -- A new biography of President Richard Nixon says he medicated himself with a mood-altering drug in the White House and also beat his wife, according to today’s New York Times which quotes the book.

The book says Nixon was depressed by hostile public reaction to the bombing of Cambodia in 1970 and had consulted a New York psychotherapist who considered him “neurotic.”

The book, The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon by Anthony Summers, an Irish journalist, is published by Viking on Monday.

The paper also quotes the biography as saying that Defense Secretary James Schlesinger was concerned about Nixon and ordered all military units not to react to orders from the White House unless it was cleared with him or the secretary of state.

The Times says that Schlesinger confirmed the account in an interview with the paper and says that the quotes attributed to him in the book “was how he felt.” In the book, Schlesinger is quoted as saying “I am proud of my role in protecting the integrity of the chain of command. You could say it was synonymous with protecting the Constitution.”

Given Drug in 1968?

According to the book, Nixon was given the prescription drug Dilantin in 1968 by Jack Dreyfus, founder of the Dreyfus Fund who was also an enthusiastic promoter and user of the drug.

In an interview with the Times this week, Dreyfus confirmed the account, the paper says. Dreyfus told the Times he gave Nixon a bottle of 1,000, 100-milligram capsules “when his mood wasn’t too good,” and later gave the president another 1,000 capsules.

Dreyfus told the Times that the drug was effective in dealing with “fear, worry, guilt, panic, anger and related emotions, irritability, rage, mood, depression, violent behavior, hyperglycemia, alcohol, anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, cardiac arrhythmia, muscular disorders.”

The Times quoted a doctor at Cornell medical school as saying the drug potentially had very serious side effect risks, like a change of mental status, confusion, memory loss and could affect cognitive function.

The Times said that the author’s wife, Robbyn Swan, who collaborated on the book, was interviewed by telephone this week near their Waterford, Ireland home and played a tape recording of an interview with Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker who at one time had treated Nixon.

According to the interview with Hutschnecker, who is now 102 and living in Sherman, Connecticut, he said of Nixon: “He didn’t have a serious psychiatric diagnosis. He wasn’t psychotic...but he had a good portion of neurotic symptoms: anxiety” and sleeplessness.

Another charge made in the book is that Nixon beat his wife, Pat. The Times observes that the author relies on second-hand accounts and writes of various journalists being told of beatings.

Gave Wife Black Eye?

Specifically, there is an account in the book that comes from John Sears, a Nixon aide during the 1968 campaign in which Sears is quoted as saying that a Nixon family lawyer, Waller Taylor, “told me that Nixon had hit her in 1962 and that she threatened to leave him over it...I’m not talking about a smack...He blackened her eye...I had heard about that from Pat Hillings as well as from the family lawyer.”

The Times says that Sears, a retired Washington lawyer, confirmed to the paper that he had told Summers about Taylor and Hillings, a longtime Nixon associate. Both Taylor and Hillings are dead.

The Nixon family called the accusation of wife-beating false, and a family spokesman said “it is utterly inconceivable.”