No talking to dead people at the White House

November 7, 2008

UPDATED – Adds apology to Nancy Reagan

WASHINGTON – President-elect Barack Obama made it clear at his first news conference since his election on Tuesday that he does not talk to dead presidents. 

In answer to a question about previous Oval Office occupants that he has consulted, Obama said: “I’ve spoken to all of them that are living,” adding, “I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances.” 

President Ronald Reagan’s wife suffered ridicule when it was reported in 1988 that she routinely consulted an astrologer when planning her husband’s schedule. Sen. Hillary Clinton, when her husband was president, was reported to have had imaginary conversations with the late former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt at the suggestion of spiritual adviser Jean Houston. 

Obama told reporters at his Chicago news conference that he re-read some of President Lincoln’s writings. Perhaps that’s what brought the seance issue to mind. Mary Todd Lincoln was said to have held regular seances at the White House.

Afterwards, Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter told reporters that the president-elect called Reagan to “apologize for the careless and off-handed remark he made during today’s press conference.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed. Obama answers a journalist’s question during his first press conference following his election victory, in Chicago, Nov. 7, 2008.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

“the one” is a real jerk.

He won’t talk to dead but will gleefully take votes from the dead. C’mon jerk, you can talk to the dead cuz they won’t talk back and question you. Ya know, like the dead journalist you had in your pocket for the last two years. They never dared to ask you a real question. They knew that they would be banned from your presence if they did ask real questions and would be invasively investigated by your devoted cult members like you did to Joe the plumber.

Leave Nancy Reagan alone. You have your own skeletons in your closet like Ayers, Wright, Farrekan(sp?) etc.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

I like that he combined serious issues with humor, like JFK.  /7015/Barack-Obama%27s-First-Press-Conf erence

Posted by BaxterJ | Report as abusive

It says much about a person when, in the same sentence, they are able to say they want the parties to unite and bash a icon of the other political party. Shame on Obama, he said wives should be off limits and then makes fun of a former first lady at the first chance he gets.

Posted by Beth | Report as abusive

I do not believe it is bashing to state that one is not going to participate in a practice that was not well received by the majority of the American population. I voted for McCain,as a lifelong Republican might be expected to do. But after seeing how Obama has conducted himself since his election, including this article, I wish I had voted for him myself.

Posted by Laura | Report as abusive

barack you made a slip up .you did the right thing to call and apologize, good on you.

Posted by mark | Report as abusive

President Obama showed one of the many reasons why he will be a great president – he doesn’t put up with the STUPID questions the press core asks. Good for him; good for us!

Posted by Douglas | Report as abusive

You know it’s not even been a week and all the stupid people in this nation will not or should i say {can not} understand. That what has happen, happen because the real americans of this nation have let their voice be heard loud and clear. We are just tired of all the bulls–t that the republicans throw around like it’s their right. And like we must put up with it. Well guess what we will not and we will change this nation with or with out you. So, feel sorry for your self if you want. We as a nation are going forward!! YES WE CAN!!!!!!!

Posted by we will | Report as abusive

It might suprise Mr. Obama to learn that a “dead” Spirit dictated the Emancipation Proclamation to President Lincoln in a seance, with Nettie Colburn Maynard as the medium. Talking to the dead can have lots of value.

Posted by Sidney Schwartz | Report as abusive

all i can say its a pleasure listening to a president who actually knows what he’s talking about, who sounds intelligent- unlike the great W who finds it difficult to string a coherent sentence together

Posted by Omar | Report as abusive

You know America has reach a place in it’s life in which they have never seen and probably will never see again. I’m a native son of the Bahamas and this was the first time Bahamians stood still and paid close attention to America politics. Congrats is in oder to Sir Barac Obama, he did something in America what Martin Luther King OR no other person in America could do, And that’s bringing America together as one nation under God, not whites not blacks nor brown or blue, but we could now see each other as humans and not just their skin tone. So with that said Congrats to all Americans NO MATTER WHO YOU VOTED FOR. Just know that history was made and you were a part of it and it was you who made it happen.

Posted by Kenny Ken | Report as abusive

This was another case of Obama’s “slip of the lip” proclivities, similar to “spread the wealth”, and others. This happens when he speaks of the cuff without his beloved teleprompter. One might wonder how this problem will impact his proposed meeting with the Iranian top dog.

Posted by Dave et al | Report as abusive

Talking of Seances. Leave the dead to the dead. As mentioned in the Bible, there were two trees in the garden of Eden, One was the tree of Knowledge, which man took. The other was the tree of everlasting life, which was kept away from him. I suppose the tree of everlasting life contained the truth of what comes after one’s death, & through this day is still not known.
So mankind best move forward with his believe in the God & himself & not on Astrology & Seances. Obama is right on that – A good starting. By the way – ” GOD is God of the living & not of the dead”

Posted by phil | Report as abusive

Make a statement which everyone listens to, make an apology which you know nobody listens to, simply so that you can say you have apologised.

Obama is more slick than ever.

A pity one of his first statements after sealing the Presidency was the extremely vacuous “we all need to work together”. Every leader in the free world has been pedling this one regarding the financial chris for the last couple of months. A sign of things to come?

Posted by nick | Report as abusive

we will,

First and foremost, the U.S.A. IS A CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC, not a democracy, as you blindly insist. A democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding on what’s for dinner.

Second, NO YOU CAN’T!!! My 1st and 2nd Amendment rights say otherwise. That is unless the PROGRAZIs ‘TRY’ to ‘rule’ otherwise. Then they will be forcefully met in the streets.

Finally, the NAZIs were on the Left side of the political spectrum, same side as the communists, maoists, socialists, etc. The pure Right would be Pure anarchy. However these days, asking the left to be intellectually honest is never an option due to years of state ‘indoctru-cation.’

God Bless America

No Caesar hath monopoly on state nor perpetuity.

Posted by the Deets | Report as abusive

Are we really debating whether or not it was reasonable to say that Nancy Reagan consulted mediums in the White House? It is a known fact that she indeed did consult mediums, and astrologers. In my opinion this makes her a bit of a nut-job and open to whatever criticisms arise from her actions. I am pleased to know that Mr. Obama does not consult the spirit world for guidance, let’s hope when he consults the living they are up to the huge task ahead.

Posted by Marla Taylor | Report as abusive

When will we get our second stimus check, we need it !I have 3 kids and I need extra help! Thanks!!

Posted by Toni | Report as abusive

Obama would be cool if he was constitutional. But he’s not. Again we’ll have another not willing to uphold the oath.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

Funny, he failed to mention Hillary in his stupid remark. Yes, she had “spirit” discussions with Eleanor Roosevelt, in the White House.

Bush said some equally idiotic things, but I guess since Obama does not have a Southern accent, he gets a pass. Stick to your notes Barack.

By the way, Congress is conducting hearings to confiscate your 401K to protect us from “greedy Wall Street” and manage (spend) these funds for us, as we type. It sure didn’t take long to start considering extreme Socialist policies.

And, for good measure, Russia is already threatening us the day after the election.

Hang on folks, it’s going to be a wild ride.

Posted by Lawton | Report as abusive

@ the Deets –

First: Saying we’re a Republic and not a Democracy is a bit misleading. Especially considering what we really have is a Republican Democracy. Republics are a subset of Democracies.

Second: What exactly do you mean by “[your] 1st and 2nd Amendment rights say otherwise”? What do you feel is being conveyed in this article which in any way infringes upon those rights? Oh it must be the quote by Obama that says “I’m going to outlaw all religion, newspapers, guns and anyone that says anything that isn’t government approved.” Oh wait…in looking back at the article, I can’t find that quote. It must be in your head.

Third: What?! I honestly have no clue what you’re trying to say here or how it in any way relates either to the article or any previous posts. Extreme “rightist” tendencies lead us not to anarchy but back to feudalism and to monopolistic business practices. Asking the right to be intellectual at all is never an option as they inevitably fall back to failed ideas, empty rhetoric or Christian mythology.

Gods have no place in government. Trying to introduce any interferes with MY First Amendment rights.

Posted by TGN | Report as abusive

He should hope and pray to have somebody as wonderful as Nancy Reagan! He is a J E R K and his wife is a total racist snob. It’s going to be a horrific 4 years under this toad.

Posted by Colby’s Wife | Report as abusive