Election 1944: Roosevelt a little underweight, but doctor declares he’s OK (10-13-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 13, 1944)


Proud of his ‘flat tummy’ –
Roosevelt a little underweight, but doctor declares he’s OK

By Blair Moody, North American Newspaper Alliance

Washington –
President Roosevelt, a few pounds underweight but otherwise in perfect health, has become “proud of his flat tummy,” VAdm. Ross McIntire, the President’s personal physician, revealed today.

No longer on a diet and free to eat whatever he wishes, the President has become so interested in keeping his boyish figure, his doctor declared, that he is willing to “take” too-thin jowls, which show up in pictures, rather than risk a return of his waistline bulge.

Adm. McIntire, also Surgeon General of the Navy, was asked for an authoritative statement on the President’s health, in view of widespread rumors in political circles and elsewhere.

Are rumors purposeful?

The White House feels, incidentally, that many of these rumors are purposeful. Stephen T. Early, the President’s secretary, said he had 15 to 20 calls within 30 minutes one day recently to the effect that a New York radio station had broadcast a report that Mr. Roosevelt had collapsed. Most of these calls were from newspapers, Mr. Early said, one of which said it had heard the report from a political source. An investigation by the Federal Communications Commission has revealed that no such broadcast had been made.

Regarding the actual condition of the President, Adm. McIntire said:

The President’s health is perfectly OK. There are absolutely no organic difficulties at all. He is eight or nine pounds under his best weight.

He took off this weight in the spring. He was getting a little too heavy and we had him reduce by cutting down on the quantity of food, and by swimming and other exercises in the White House pool.

Dropped to 175 pounds

From a weight of 188 to 190 pounds, Mr. Roosevelt dropped to around 175, Adm, McIntire said. He has put several pounds of this lost weight back on, but exactly how many the doctor doesn’t know, since he has not had the President on the scales for a couple of weeks.

Reports of the President’s “bad health” started when he had influenza last winter, his doctor pointed out.

Adm. McIntire said:

He had a hard time shaking off that attack and it knocked out his reserve for a while. As a result, he had some sinus trouble and bronchitis, and the coughing wore him down a bit.

Rest on Baruch estate

When the President did not respond satisfactorily to diet and exercise, Dr. McIntire ordered a rest, and Mr. Roosevelt went to the South Carolina estate of Bernard M. Baruch.

Adm. McIntire went on:

He took it easy down there and came along fine. Now he has recovered his reserve and has the same ability to turn things off as before.

“But he still looks thin,” the doctor was reminded.

He laughed:

I know it. But did you ever hear of a man who recovered his flat tummy, and got proud of it? The President has not been on a restricted diet since before his trip to the Pacific. But he doesn’t want to get that bulge back. Frankly, I wish he would put on a few pounds.

He’s ‘perfectly OK’

“How about his kidneys?”

Nothing wrong organically with him at all. He’s perfectly OK. We’ve not even made any special attempt to get him to pick up on his weight.

“How about the report that his teeth are abscessed and have to come out?”

Nothing to it. There is one tooth that has given him a little trouble, and he has a dentist treat his gums and clean his teeth, but that’s all.

The admiral concluded:

Of course, he has been working hard for a long time. He does a terrific day’s work. But he stands up under it amazingly. The stories that he is in bad health are understandable around election time, but they are not true.