Nancy Reagan says some of the things written about her are "silly and outrageous" but she would not trade her experience as first lady for "even extra years added to my life."
Mrs. Reagan defiantly proclaimed the most important role of the first lady is to be a wife and if that interferes with affairs of state, "then so be it."She made the remarks in an unusually frank speech Thursday to 1,300 wives of representatives to the World Gas Conference.
It was the first time she has personally answered the stinging criticism in the rash of recent "kiss and tell" books, particularly the memoirs of former chief of staff Donald Regan.
"No matter what is written about her, there's one thing on which any first lady must be a stone wall," she said. "The first lady is first of all a wife."
Explaining that when a president is hospitalized, she said, "Yes, there are the demands of government, but there are also basic personal rights every president should not be denied."
The first lady said a president has advisers to counsel him on everything from foreign affairs to politics, "but no one among all those experts is there to look after him as an individual with human needs, as a flesh-and-blood person who must deal with the pressures of holding the most powerful position on Earth."
"As a wife, I believe my husband has as much right to a normal recuperation as any other husband. And I think it's an important, legitimate role for a first lady to look after a president's health and well-being," she said.
"And if that interferes with affairs of state, then so be it," she added. "No first lady need make apologies for looking out for her husband's personal welfare."
Several recent books by former White House officials - notably Regan's "For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington" - criticized the first lady for an iron-fisted control over her husband's schedule.
In his book, Regan said the first lady consulted an astrologer on a host of questions.
Aides have acknowledged Mrs. Reagan did consult Joan Quigley, a San Francisco socialite astrologer, after the president was shot in March 1981 during an assassination attempt.
Mrs. Reagan said living in the White House "is like nothing you can imagine."