Syndicated stargazers say it was an open secret that President and Nancy Reagan consult their horoscopes, with their interest in astrology dating to the years when Reagan was governor of California.
The White House confirmed Tuesday that Nancy Reagan follows astrology and consults it for some of the president's activities, but the president said no policy or decision he's made has been influenced by the stars.Meanwhile, a group of world-famous scientists intent on debunking the claims of astrologers says it is dismayed that the Reagans use "superstition" and "mystical fortune telling" to make decisions.
"I refer to it as the world's worst-kept secret that President Reagan relies on astrology. There's nothing new about it," said astrologer Sydney Omarr of Santa Monica, whose syndicated daily horoscope is distributed to more than 300 newspapers, including The Washington Post.
Omarr said he has never consulted with Reagan, but received congratulations via a phone call from former White House spokesman Larry Speakes when Omarr noted his 25 years with the Los Angeles Times syndicate.
The confirmation of the Reagans' interest followed reports that Donald T. Regan, the former White House chief of staff, plans to reveal in a book that Mrs. Reagan turned to astrologers in shaping the president's schedule.
"It's an input that they receive. I don't like to use the word rely," said Joyce Jillson, an astrologer from the San Fernando Valley whose daily horoscope is distributed to more than 100 newspapers nationwide by Tribune Media Services.
The question of Reagan and astrology surfaced more than 20 years ago, when he chose to be sworn in as governor for his first term shortly after midnight on Jan. 5, 1967.
Outgoing Gov. Pat Brown said Reagan picked the time because he relied on astrology. Reagan's aides denied that, and said the unusual time was picked because of constitutional questions regarding transfer of power.
Jillson said the Reagans regularly consulted astrologers throughout the Reagan presidency and gubernatorial tenure in California.
Lyn Nofziger, a former White House political aide and longtime associate of the Reagans, dismissed the sudden interest in Mrs. Reagan's stargazing.
"I have never once heard her allude to astrology or to the stars or to the moon or to the sign of the ram," he said.
He said the president liked to read his horoscope and "laughed about it and kidded about it, but I have never seen him take the stuff seriously."
Jillson said she was at the White House after Reagan's assassination attempt in March 1981, and helped the GOP choose George Bush as vice president.
"There was talk that I did charts for all eight (vice presidential) candidates. I don't deny that. I determined the only winnable choice was George Bush." Asked if she advised the Reagans, Jillson said, "I never discuss my clients."
She said Reagan has used astrology to pick his inauguration and other big events. "Look at when he holds his news conferences. They're usually during a full moon. He chooses those times to do it."
However, White House deputy press secretary B.J. Cooper said the Reagans did not know Jillson.
Other skeptics came forward. Astrology, said the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, harks back to ancient times when monarchs and emperors resorted to the musings of fortune tellers for advice.
"We are concerned by the apparent return to medieval superstitition," the statement said. "Dozens of tests in recent years by scientists can find little, if any, evidence for astrological claims. Horoscopes have been shown under the most rigorous scientific analysis to fail completely in predicting future events."
"If the United States is to continue its leadership in scientific research, it is vital that the public have a clear understanding of the difference between science and pseudoscience, and that decisions be based on the real world without resorting to mystical fortune telling and other primitive forms of prognostication," the scientists' group said.
Paul Kurtz, chairman of the committee, said he released the statement to counter publicity about astrology following disclosure of the Reagans' interest.
"The public has the right to know who these astrologers are and what recommendations they have made...their claims and alleged authorities (should) be subjected to scientific scrutiny."