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Reagan Calls Dukakis “An Invalid;” Dukakis Says No Apology Needed

August 3, 1988 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Reagan today referred to Michael Dukakis as ″an invalid″ in a barbed comment on the health of the Democratic presidential nominee. He later said he’d been joking ″but I don’t think I should have said what I said.″

″No apology was really needed,″ Dukakis said. ″We all occasionally misspeak and I don’t think the president needed to apologize.″

″I’m a very healthy guy,″ he declared to reporters in Boston.

Dukakis’ running mate, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, called Reagan’s remark ″outrageous and laughable at the same time.″


Vice President George Bush, Dukakis’ presidential rival, said he wanted to talk to Reagan before commenting. He added, ″I’m not going to be drawn into this mini-controversy.″

The president was responding to a reporter representing Executive Intelligence Review, a publication associated with political extremist Lyndon LaRouche. The questioner, asking whether Dukakis shouldn’t release his medical records, said the Democratic candidate had not done so, particularly whether he had ever undergone psychiatric treatment.

A Dukakis spokesman, responding to such questions last week, said Dukakis had never been treated for any mental condition. Neither Dukakis nor Bush has released full medical records during the 1988 campaign, though Bush said today he would do so.

Dukakis, when asked today if he had ever suffered from depression, said, ″No.″ Asked if he had ever consulted a psychiatrist, he said, ″No.″

When asked if would release his records, he said, ″I’ll be happy to provide the people of this country with a full report on my physical and mental condition from my physician of 17 years.″

He has already released a report from that doctor, Gerald R. Plotkin, saying he was in good shape and had suffered no major medical problems during the period. Before 1971 his only physician was his father.

Reagan, who was smiling, responded to the reporter’s question today, ″I’m not going to pick on an invalid.″

He refused to elaborate on what he meant. But a few minutes later at a separate appearance, Reagan, without prompting, told reporters, ″A short time ago, I attempted a joke. I was kidding. ... I was just trying to be funny and it didn’t work.″

Reagan said that he believes the American people are entitled to know about a candidate’s medical history.

Rumors that a news organization was about to publish a story on the subject of possible treatment of Dukakis circulated last week as he campaigned through several states.

When asked by reporters at that time, campaign press secretary Dayton Duncan denied that Dukakis had ever undergone psychiatric treatment.

″He hasn’t been treated for any mental illness or mental depression of any kind,″ Duncan said.

Asked if that meant Dukakis had never seen a psychiatrist for treatment, Duncan said, ″Yes.″ Asked if that also precluded any form of psychological therapy or counseling, Duncan said, ″Yes.″

Talk of such treatment first circulated at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta two weeks ago after handbills were slipped under reporters’ hotel room doors. They were signed, ″National Democratic Policy Committee,″ a political arm of LaRouche.

In Boston, Dukakis’ deputy Statehouse press secretary, Stephen Crawford, said, ″We have no comment.″

Earlier in his news conference, Reagan sought to shrug off poll results that show Vice President George Bush trailing Dukakis.

Reagan said that is explained by the news coverage given Dukakis and last month’s Democratic National Convention.

″Their candidate has been getting several times the space and time in the media,″ Reagan said.