Warren Boroson, Who Surveyed Psychiatrists on Goldwater, Dies at 88

The defeated Republican presidential candidate sued the magazine and the author of an article suggesting he was mentally unfit for the presidency.

Warren Boroson, Who Surveyed Psychiatrists on Goldwater, Dies at 88


Boroson was sued by the Republican presidential candidate for suing him and the magazine he worked at, claiming that it had made fun of him for suggesting that Boroson was not mentally fit for the presidency.


Warren Boroson, a journalist, who conducted a survey among psychiatrists and declared Barry M. Goldwater, the Republican presidential nominee in 1964, mentally unfit for office, died March 12, at his Woodstock, N.Y. home. This prompted a libel lawsuit from the candidate. He was 88.

His wife Rebecca Boroson said that the cause was complications from chronic obstructive lung disease and other heart conditions.

Mr. Goldwater sued him for $2 million. Mr. Boroson was the 29-year old managing editor of the iconoclastic magazine Fact at the time he initiated the survey. He feared that a judgment against him could lead to him being indentured to the Arizona senator for a lifetime.

New York's federal jury ruled in favor of Mr. Goldwater and awarded damages in excess of $75,000. The verdict was upheld by U.S. Supreme Court. It found in favor of Mr. Goldwater and awarded damages of $75,000.

The survey raised ethical questions that have still reverberated in the psychiatric field to this day.

The so-called Goldwater rule was adopted by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973. It states that it is unethical for members to offer a professional opinion unless they have conducted an examination and been given proper authorization.

Professor Alan A. was the only board member. Professor Alan A. Stone, Harvard Law School's board member, voted against it, calling it a denial of free expression and every psychiatrist's God-given rights to make fools of themselves or others.

Some psychiatrists have flouted the rule since then when journalists and other people asked them to comment on the mental and emotional state of public figures. This includes terrorists, foreign officials and Donald J. Trump as a presidential candidate. Some have resigned rather than being bound by the rule.

The 1964 Fact survey saw Mr. Boroson resign from the magazine. He had suggested that Fact's publisher Ralph Ginzburg poll psychiatrists but he resigned before the article was published in September 1964 because he claimed his draft had been sensationalized and rewritten.

According to Dr. John Martin-Joy's book 'Diagnosing from a Distance: Debates over Libel Law and Media Ethics from Barry Goldwater To Donald Trump' (2020), Mr. Boroson apparently admitted that Mr. Goldwater was out of his mind and feared for America’s safety if ever given the responsibility to set off the nation's nuclear trigger.

Dr. Martin-Joy, who is a Cambridge, Mass. psychiatrist, stated that Boroson had done'serious research on the best current thinking about how to prevent the recurrenceof fascism' and that the original draft was 'at most an attempt to explain a complicated psychological idea to the public.

Dr. Martin-Joy stated that he and Ginzburg were important in pushing forward the frontiers for free speech to promote public understanding of mental health of public officials. "However, their job was not perfect.


In 1965, Mr. Goldwater filed suit against President Lyndon B. Johnson for the loss of the election.

Dr. Martin-Joy stated that the court was clear to see that Ginzburg's responses were creatively altered by psychiatrists, and that they were departing form what they believed to be facts. They undermined their case, I believe.

Dr. Jacob M. Appel is the director of ethics education at Icahn School of Medicine, Mt. Sinai, Manhattan said that Boroson's 1960s work had the unintended result of muzzling psychiatrists today.

Interviews and notes by Mr. Boroson reveal that his concerns about Mr. Goldwater's health were piqued after he learned that Mr. Goldwater had suffered two nervous breakdowns. These were stressful circumstances that later proved to be exaggerated.

Ginzburg said, "Why don't you ask some psychiatrists whether a nervous collapse incapacitates someone to hold public office?" Mr. Boroson was recalled. "Ginzburg instantly replied, "Let's get every psychiatrist in this country." So we did.'

Fact reached out directly to 12,356 American Psychiatric Association members to ask them: "Do you believe Barry Goldwater can psychologically serve as President of the United States?" Out of 2,417 respondents, 657 replied "Yes" and 1,189 said "No." Rest of the respondents said that they did not know enough about senator's mental health to make a decision.

Boroson stated that 41 pages of extracts from responses in the magazine were 'the most thorough character analysis of a living person'.

The title of the cover article, "The Man and the Menace", was taken from the draft by Mr. Boroson, and was apparently rewritten and edited by David Bar-Illan (an Israeli pianist and editor).

In his notes, Mr. Boroson wrote that he had resigned from Fact because of anger. "And insisted that my name be not listed as the author for the Bar-Illan Article." The article was published under the byline of Mr. Ginzburg.

A court of appeal ruled that Boroson had been omitted from Mr. Ginzburg's reference to the authoritarian personality. It also reached the conclusion that Senator Goldwater was paranoid and mentally ill.

Time magazine stated that the published version of Mr. Goldwater was 'a paranoiac and a latent homosexual, and a later-day Hitler'.

The jury award was upheld by the Supreme Court. Mr. Ginzburg received punitive damages totaling $25,000 and Mr. Boroson $1, respectively. Hugo L. Black, William O. Douglas and others disapproved, citing First Amendment protections.

Warren Gilbert Boroson was a Manhattan native, born Jan. 22, 1935. Cecelia (Wersan), Boroson was his mother. Henry was his father.

Warren was a graduate of Memorial High School, West Nyack, N.Y. He also received a bachelor's in English from Columbia University in 1957.

His wife Rebecca (Kaplan), a retired journalist, is his only survivor. He is also survived by Bram Boroson and Matthew Boroson and his brother Dr. Hugh Boroson.

Four years after the Goldwater survey was completed, Ginzburg attempted to conduct a similar survey among psychiatrists about President Johnson's mental state in 1968. The results of his survey were not published even if he was successful.

Later, Mr. Boroson wrote under his pen name for local newspapers and magazines. (Fact was a quarterly that was published between January 1964 and August 1967. More than 20 books were written by him, including financial guides for self-help. He taught journalism, finance, and music at colleges.

It was a regret that I didn't propose to write a book on Trump before he became famous. Trump: In Relentless Pursuit Of Selfishness.