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Former Deputy Chief of staff for President Reagan Michael Deaver speaks during a taping of 'Meet the Press' at the NBC Studios on May 20, 2007.
Former Deputy Chief of staff for President Reagan Michael Deaver speaks during a taping of 'Meet the Press' at the NBC Studios on May 20, 2007. Alex Wong/Getty Images
Michael K. Deaver, a close adviser to Ronald Reagan who directed the president's picturesque and symbolic public appearances, died Saturday. He was 69.
Deaver, who had pancreatic cancer, died at his home in Bethesda, Md., according to a statement from the Deaver family that was issued by Edelman, the public relations firm he served as vice chairman.
Deaver was celebrated and scorned as an expert at media manipulation for focusing on how the president looked as much as what the president said. Reagan's chief choreographer for public events, Deaver protected the commander in chief's image and enhanced it with a flair for choosing just the right settings, poses and camera angles.
"I've always said the only thing I did is light him well," Deaver told the Los Angeles Times in 2001. "My job was filling up
the space around the head. I didn't make Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan made me."
Deaver's own image suffered a setback in 1987. He was convicted on three of five counts of perjury stemming from statements to a congressional subcommittee and a federal grand jury investigating his lobbying activities with administration officials.
Deaver blamed alcoholism for lapses in memory and judgment. Hewas sentenced to three years' probation and fined $100,000 as well as ordered to perform 1,500 hours of public service.
When the subject of a pardon surfaced in Reagan's final days in office in 1989, the president noted that Deaver had indicated he would not accept one, according to Reagan's diary.
Deaver's family said in the statement Saturday that he fought his cancer "with the courage, grace and good spirit that he carried throughout his life. ... In the end, he stood as the model of a man who not only loved life, but lived life right, one day at a time."
Former first lady Nancy Reagan said in a statement that Deaver "was the closest of friends to both Ronnie and me in many ways, and he was like a son to Ronnie." She added, "We met great challenges together. ... I will miss Mike terribly."
Deaver brought a public relations background and a long association with Reagan to his work as White House deputy chief of staff from 1981-1985. He and top Reagan advisers Edwin Meese III and James A. Baker III were known as "the troika" that, in effect, managed the presidency.
Deaver, however, was concerned more with Reagan's image than his policies. He also was responsible for the president's schedule and security and served as a liaison for any family matters.
To exert as much control as possible, Deaver steered the president away from reporters when he could, instead arranging Reagan in poses and settings that conveyed visually the message of the moment. Presidential news conferences were a rarity, which suited an actor-turned-politician who was at his best when using a script.
From The Associated Press