WASHINGTON (AP) — A new biography asserts that Richard Nixon over many years took a mood-altering drug without a prescription and that he beat his wife at times of personal crisis — a claim a Nixon intimate calls "inconceivable."
"The Arrogance of Power" by Anthony Summers was being published Monday. It chiefly concerns the aspects of Nixon's life "that he and his supporters have preferred to conceal," writes Summers, a BBC journalist and author of biographies of J. Edgar Hoover and Marilyn Monroe.
The author named his sources for most of the book's assertions. But many of those he quotes got their information second-hand. Some of the book's claims have been made in the past but in less detail.
The book said that in 1968 Nixon was given 1,000 capsules of the drug Dilantin, an anti-convulsant used to counter epileptic seizures, by Jack Dreyfus, founder of an investment firm and an enthusiastic promoter of the drug. Dreyfus later supplied another 1,000, it said.
White House physician Dr. Walter Tkach, "a compliant doctor who would do exactly as a patient asked," was also a user of the drug himself, the book said, citing Nixon aide John D. Ehrlichman as its source.
When asked later if Nixon was still taking the drug, Tkach replied, "I don't know, but the amount of pills in the bottle in his bathroom is reducing in size, so I suppose he is," according to Summers.
The Physicians' Desk Reference lists a number of adverse reactions to Dilantin, including slurred speech, decreased coordination and mental confusion.
Summers wrote that the relationship of Nixon and his wife was one of "prolonged marital difficulty, of physical abuse, of threatened divorce." But that view was contested by John Taylor, Nixon's chief aide in his retirement years, now director of the Richard M. Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, Calif.
Summers' claims that Nixon abused his wife came from secondary sources.
"Richard Nixon never raised a hand to Mrs. Nixon," Taylor said in a statement Sunday. "Their affection and respect for one another is well known to all who knew them. It is inconceivable that he would have struck her for any reason."