Mary Margaret Olohan at The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF)
A new memoir on the life of Barbara Bush reveals that the former first lady contemplated suicide over her husband’s affair with an aide.
The Daily Mail reports that author Susan Page revealed in the upcoming “The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty” that Barbara Bush suffered from a deep depression stemming in part from former President George H.W. Bush’s affair with Jennifer Fitzgerald.
“Barbara Bush found herself falling into the worst personal crisis she had faced since daughter Robin had died more than two decades earlier,” writes Page. “Overwhelmed by pain and loneliness, she contemplated suicide.”
Page explains that other factors may have impacted Barbara‘s depression, including her inability to discuss her husband’s CIA job, her newly empty nest and hormonal menopause.
“She would pull over to the side of the road until the impulse to plow into a tree or drive into the path of an oncoming car had passed,” Page wrote, saying that Barbara told her before her death, “I felt terrible. I would pull over and park so I wouldn’t go hit a tree. I really wasn’t brave enough to do that, but that’s why I pulled over, so I wouldn’t do that, or I wouldn’t run into another car.”
Fitzgerald was seven years younger than Barbara, flirty, blonde and very protective of George, according to The Daily Mail. The two met in 1973 when George was Chairman of the Republican National Committee and George later made her his assistant in 1974 when he served as chief of the US Liaison Office.
“Just seven years younger than Barbara and not a striking beauty,” Page writes, “she was flirty and solicitous and focused completely on him. Their surreptitious romance would last for more than a dozen years, inexplicable to those around him and impossible for anyone to manage.”
Barbara was in China with her husband when she discovered that George had chosen Fitzgerald as his assistant. She returned home to the United States and did not go back to China until the following year. Bush later brought Fitzgerald to Washington with him when he was made Vice President, and there “she sat outside his office door in the White House as his gatekeeper,” according to The Daily Mail.
Despite countless rumors and humiliations for Barbara, George only removed Fitzgerald from his staff when he was made president in 1988. However, he then made her deputy chief of protocol at the State Department.
George flatly denied a relationship with Fitzgerald until he passed away, telling historian Jon Meacham, “I was very close to her for a while. And liked her. I knew she was difficult, and knew other people didn’t like her. She was hard to work with for other people around her.”
In a diary entry after the media first reported on the affair, Barbara wrote, “My own opinion is that Jennifer really does hurt George. His eyes really glaze over when you mention her name. She is just what he wants, he says and says the hell with it all.”
Fitzgerald herself denies all allegations of an affair with George H.W. Bush. “It simply didn’t happen,” she told Page, “I have nothing but the deepest respect and admiration for the entire Bush family.”
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