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Lyndon Johnson, Fresca Fanatic

President Lyndon Johnson “gave up alcohol and drank tea, Tab and Fresca” after he became president in 1963, as we note in our profile.  We didn’t know until now that he used Fresca as a weapon, too.

Backstory: Fresca was a citrus-flavored diet soda made by Coca-Cola. (Fresca is still around, in fact.) Lyndon Johnson was such a fan that he reportedly had a “Fresca” call button added to his private White House study. (Alas, he did not have an actual Fresca tap in the Oval Office, as is sometimes rumored.)

Here’s an anecdote from True Compass, the 2009 memoir by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. The year is 1968. Kennedy has just returned from a fact-finding trip to Vietnam, and (with aide Dave Burke) is giving a negative report to the very much pro-war Johnson at the White House.

The president… suggested that before I continue, Dave and I might like some coffee, tea, or Fresca.  We politely declined.  The president persisted and asked Dave, “Aren’t you going to have a Fresca with your president?”  Dave, of course, said he would have a Fresca.

LBJ seemed preoccupied with our soft drink needs as that meeting went on, Burke’s especially. Every time Dave found an opening to voice his opinions on Vietnam, Johnson would interrupt to ask whether he would like another Fresca.  It finally became clear that the president was trying to keep Dave off balance — and off the topic of Vietnam.

“Aren’t you going to have a Fresca with your president?” Heh! Well played, sir.

See our full biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson

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