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Pat Nixon: Watergate and Beyond A Brave and Misunderstood First Lady II

Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in August 1974 and the Nixons moved to their California seaside retreat. But they could not escape the fallout from the Watergate affair. Washington Post news reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, wishing to pursue farther a fame-enhancing narrative, wrote a follow up Watergate tell-all The Final Days.

The book, employing no documented sources and surmising ‘what might have been’ conversations and internal thoughts, finally appeared in print in the early summer of 1976 after several months’ of a pre-publication advertising blitz. Pat Nixon suffered a stroke on July 7, 1976. Richard Nixon, in a conversation with their family physician Jack Lungren, said: “…that two days before the stroke, Pat was reading The Final Days…Pat was extremely upset over the sections where Woodward and Bernstein portrayed us as demented alcoholics and our marriage as loveless—pure, unadulterated lies.” (Lungren & Lungren: Healing Richard Nixon. A Doctor’s Memoir, 2003, page 162)

In addition, on the morning of her stroke the ex-president informed Pat that the New York State Bar, instead of accepting Nixon’s request for resignation, would announce that day that Richard Nixon would be disbarred from the practice of the law in New York State.

Dr. Lungren admitted Mrs. Nixon to the Memorial Hospital Medical Center in Long Beach, California with cerebral hemorrhage and vascular hypertension. Her symptoms were generalized weakness of the left arm and leg and slurring of speech. On admission her blood pressure was highly elevated. Neurological follow-up, blood pressure control and physical therapy were commenced. She departed the hospital two weeks later. The causes of her cerebral hemorrhage (stroke) are speculative, and the relative significance of extreme tension, hypertension and smoking is debatable.

In 1983, there was a second stroke. “In addition to the second stroke, she fought off several bouts of pneumonia and bronchitis. By the early 1990s, the years of heavy smoking caught up with her; she suffered from emphysema and eventually lung cancer. She died in June 1993.” (Brennan, 176)

Lud Historian
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1 Comment
  • warren braun
    Posted at 10:36h, 24 September Reply

    The world can be very cruel. Fame and fortune automatically subjects one to be a target open to all, and not all curb their zeal with wisdom and kindness. Sadly, a tragedy of no short duration.

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