Speech geeks, gather round: speech script becomes evidence in investigation

The New York Times reports that an investigation of the cause of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s death might not be the hypertension and ensuing brain hemorrhage that’s always been the story. A forthcoming book, FDR’s Deadly Secret, asserts that he may have had a brain tumor, covered up to win the 1944 election. Barron H. Lerner writes in Slate:

The most provocative evidence the authors present is that Roosevelt had a left-sided hemianopsia—a loss in vision—toward the end of his life. This indicated a mass in the right side of his brain. Dr. Lomazow and Mr. Fettman arrive at this conclusion based on an ingenious bit of research. On March 1, 1945, Roosevelt had given a speech to Congress, reporting on his recent trip to Yalta to meet with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. During the speech, Roosevelt appeared confused: He skipped words in his prepared remarks, ad-libbed and repeated several points. Critics later seized on this speech as evidence that the president was deteriorating mentally.

Dr. Lomazow and Mr. Fettman obtained both a video of Roosevelt giving the speech and the text he used. Comparing the two, they concluded that the president could not see the left side of the page. His seeming mistakes and confusion reflected his attempts to compensate.

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