The headline in the Daily Telegraph was intriguing —

“Are UFO’s real?  Famous people who believed”

— and the sub-head was promising —

The former NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell has claimed that aliens exist and their visits are being covered up by the United States government. Mitchell is in good company in his beliefs. Here we highlight 12 other public figures who believe that extraterrestrials may have been visiting our planet over the last 100 years.

Admittedly, some of the “examples” adduced were more convincing than others.

Jimmy Carter led off the list of twelve:

Jimmy Carter, US President from 1976 to 1980, promised while on the campaign trail that he would make public all documents on UFOs if elected. He said: “I don’t laugh at people any more when they say they’ve seen UFOs. I’ve seen one myself.”

Ronald Reagan was also there:

Ronald Reagan, US President from 1980 to 1988, “I looked out the window and saw this white light.It was zigzagging around. I went up to the pilot and said, ‘Have you ever seen anything like that?’ He was shocked and he said, ‘nope.’ And I said to him: ‘Let’s follow it!’ We followed it for several minutes. It was a bright white light.We followed it to Bakersfield, and all of a sudden to our utter amazement it went straight up into the heavens. When I got off the plane I told Nancy all about it.”

Mikhail Gorbochov was cited:

Mikhail Gorbachev, the USSR’s last head of state: “The phenomenon of UFOs does exist, and it must be treated seriously.”

But the few shreds of cred that still remained were blown away by the list’s penultimate name and quote:

Richard Nixon, US President from 1969 to 1974: “I’m not at liberty to discuss the government’s knowledge of extraterrestrial UFO’s at this time. I am still personally being briefed on the subject.”

Let’s assume for the moment that the quote is accurate (there are no citations).  It was likely in reference to the impending decision to shut down Project Blue Book —the Air Force’s inquiry into the existence of UFOs and their potential threat to national security.  There is a conspiratorial substratum that considers 17 December 1969 —the day that decision was publicly announced— as among the darkest days of official government suppression of evidence of extraterrestrial existence and visitations.

But the idea that this statement ranks RN as someone who believed “that extraterrestrials may have been visiting our planet over the last 100 years” indicates that there may be too much space dust in the air ducts at the Telegraph building.

At one point during our labors in San Clemente, I asked RN if he believed in UFOs and if there was anything to the whole Roswell Area 51 business.  He raised his eyebrows and rolled his eyes and I moved right on to the next subject.