Obama apologizes to Nancy Reagan for seance quip

President-elect Barack Obama answers a journalist's question during his first press conference following his election victory in Chicago, November 7, 2008. REUTERS/Jason Reed

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Barack Obama apologized to former first lady Nancy Reagan on Friday for making a quip about her doing seances.

“President-elect Barack Obama called Nancy Reagan today to apologize for the careless and off-handed remark he made during today’s press conference,” said Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter.

“The President-elect expressed his admiration and affection for Mrs. Reagan that so many Americans share and they had a warm conversation,” Cutter said in a statement.

Earlier on Friday at his first news conference since sweeping to victory in Tuesday’s election, Obama was asked if he had consulted past presidents for guidance.

“I’ve spoken to all of them that are living,” he said. When some members of the media started to laugh, he added: “I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances.”

President Ronald Reagan’s wife was ridiculed 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 Eleanor Roosevelt at the suggestion of spiritual adviser Jean Houston.

After making the seance comment, Obama said in addition to speaking to all the living past presidents he had also re-read some of President Abraham Lincoln’s writings.

His wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, was said to have held regular seances at the White House.

Reporting by Deborah Charles and Donna Smith in Washington; Editing by Xavier Briand