HUDSON, N.H., OCT. 3 -- President Reagan was gravely ill following the attempt on his life in 1981 and he and the White House misrepresented his condition to the public, said former secretary of state Alexander M. Haig Jr.
"If you knew the true story, it would make your hair stand on end," Haig said while touring the Liberty Millwork factory on Friday.
Haig, campaigning in New Hampshire for the Republican presidential nomination, said he agrees with author Bob Woodward's depiction of a White House in chaos and a president who was seriously impaired after being shot in the chest.
In his new book, "Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987," Woodward wrote that White House aides soon discovered that the smiling and waving president who left the hospital two weeks after the shooting had been acting for the public.
The day after leaving the hospital, Woodward wrote, Reagan collapsed into a chair, spoke in a raspy whisper and had to use oxygen to recover.
Haig agreed that Reagan's condition was much worse than the public knew.
"No question. Grave. Very serious," is how he described Reagan's condition.
While disagreeing with some portions of the book, Haig said the segment on the assassination attempt and its aftermath were "incredibly accurate."
Reagan's former doctor denied Woodward's account and said Reagan's recovery was "superb."
Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger also disputed Woodward's description of Reagan's health.