What was the rumor about George Bush’s alleged marital infidelities?

Dear Cecil:

What was the rumor about George Bush's alleged marital infidelities? I kept seeing veiled references in places like Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom Watch, but never any details. Please, help me get hip. Half the time I don't even get Doonesbury these days.

Cecil replies:

I know the feeling. If you’re not wired into the media gossipnet (and even I take a week or two off occasionally just to detox), getting through the trendier magazines is like trying to read code. The rumor you’re supposed to know about refers to one Jennifer (with a J, not G) Fitzgerald, a 60ish longtime aide to Bush. Described as domineering, she was unpopular with co-workers but could do no wrong in her boss’s eyes. This led some to conclude that the two had something going, although you could use the same reasoning to prove Bush had an affair with John Sununu.

The rumor had been circulating since the early 80s and occasionally surfaced in the papers, most notably (and explicitly) in a story in the L.A. Weekly during the 1988 presidential campaign. A few days later the stock market dropped 43 points on rumors that the Washington Post was about to do a similar expose. The actual evidence for the alleged liaison was laughably thin — anonymous second-hand accounts, mysterious day-long disappearances during 1978-79, that kind of thing. Fitzgerald denied the story; Bush, on one of the few occasions reporters had the nerve to ask him about it, said, “I don’t respond to rumors.” Personally I won’t be satisfied until we get lab tests and a televised hearing. For a fuller discussion (no additional facts, but an amusing account of mainstream media squirming on the subject), see the November 15, 1988 Village Voice.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

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