WASHINGTON — The White House denounced Donald T. Regan today as exploiting the presidency with his book detailing Nancy Reagan's interest in astrology, but left open the question of whether stargazing still plays a role in presidential scheduling.
For her part, the First Lady said she will keep talking to her astrologer, her spokeswoman said.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater told reporters that President Reagan feels "deep personal disappointment with this breach of confidence."
In his book, Regan contended that Reagan "laid down no rules and articulated no missions" while his wife presided over a "shadowy distaff presidency" heavily influenced by advice from an astrologer.
Mrs. Reagan was quoted by her press secretary as saying: "I was taken aback by the vengefulness of the attack. It comes through to me that Don Regan doesn't really like me."
Regan's book details his allegations that Mrs. Reagan consulted an astrologer about scheduling of presidential events.
Elaine Crispen, the First Lady's press secretary, said today that Mrs. Reagan told her she intends to keep talking to the astrologer, San Francisco socialite Joan Quigley.
'She Does Get Comfort'
Asked if Mrs. Reagan will continue to use astrology in helping plan the President's schedule, Crispen said only, "She will more than likely continue to talk to this person because she does get some comfort from it."
"It doesn't control their lives. . . . She doesn't see any harm in it," Crispen added.
Fitzwater gave a sharply worded statement to reporters in the first lengthy White House reaction to the book by the former White House chief of staff entitled, "For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington."
"The new book by Donald Regan is a kiss-and-tell story in the mold of all books that seek to exploit the presidency or the First Family for personal self-interest," Fitzwater said.
"The President emphasized last week that he made no policy decisions based on astrology. We recognize that the First Lady has an interest in astrology," he added.
The spokesman defended the First Lady's interest in stargazing, as well as her input into the preparation of the President's schedule.
"She has every reason to make contributions on presidential schedules and activities," Fitzwater said. "She has every right to continue it," he added at another point.
Asked repeatedly whether she continued to rely on astrological predictions in such matters, Fitzwater replied, "I don't know."
Asked About Errors
Asked about any factual errors in the book, Fitzwater replied there are "a whole lot of things, but we're simply not going to go into it."
"I know the First Lady is very upset about anybody trying to exploit her concerns for her husband's safety and welfare," he said.
In the book, Regan pictures Reagan as a reluctant decision-maker, saying, "Never did he issue a direct order, although I, at least, sometimes devoutly wished that he would."
"He listened, acquiesced, played his role and waited for the next act to be written," Regan wrote of the President who dumped him in favor of Howard H. Baker Jr. at the height of the furor over the Iran-Contra affair, reportedly at the First Lady's instigation.
Regan, interviewed on NBC's "Today" show this morning, said Mrs. Reagan kept the President almost immobile on the advice of an astrologer at a time when he should have been out defending his actions in the Iran-Contra scandal after the scandal broke in November, 1986.
"The President was practically immobile during that period . . . all because the First Lady was saying, 'No, no, no, he can't go out,' " Regan said.