LONDON – A Channel Islands auction house says it's selling a vial that allegedly contains blood residue from Ronald Reagan — a move denounced Tuesday by the late U.S. president's family and his foundation.
The vial being auctioned online was used by the laboratory that tested Reagan's blood when he was hospitalized after a 1981 assassination attempt in Washington, the PFCAuctions house said.
Reagan's son Michael condemned the auction but said he was confident it was not his father's blood.
"Whatever's in the vial — could be mouse blood — it's certainly not Reagan blood," Reagan said in a telephone call from Los Angeles. "And what an outrageous thing to do to (Reagan's widow) Nancy and the family. I hope the world calls on this organization to cease and desist because it's so bogus."
"Even if it were true, how dare they, how dare they do such a thing?"
John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation in California, condemned the auction and vowed to try to halt it. Bidding for the vial had passed the 7,000-pound ($11,000) mark Tuesday, the house said, and the auction ends Thursday.
"If indeed this story is true, it's a craven act and we will use every legal means to stop its sale or purchase," Heubusch said in a statement. "We've spoken to GW (George Washington) Hospital and are assured an investigation as to how something like this could possibly happen is underway.
"Any individual, including a president of the United States, should feel confident that once they enter into the care of a medical system their privacy and rights are held inviolable," he said.
The auction house on the Channels Islands between England and France said on its website that the blood vial did not come from the Washington hospital that treated Reagan but from the Bio Science Laboratory in Columbia, Maryland.
The item is a five-inch glass vial that is one half-inch in diameter and has a green rubber stopper. The auction house says it clearly contains traces of dried blood.
The vial is being sold by a man whose late mother took it from the laboratory with permission weeks after the tests were made, auction house spokeswoman Kylie Whitehead told The Associated Press.
"No one from the foundation or from the family has complained to us," she said Tuesday.
In a statement on the auction house's website, the seller said he tried to interest the Reagan library in purchasing the vial from him but did not succeed. He said the lab director told his mother she could take it.
The auction house website says the seller claimed he was a supporter of Reagan's conservative economic policies and believes the late president would have wanted him to sell the vial rather than donate it.
Reagan required emergency surgery after he was shot by John Hinckley Jr. outside the Washington Hilton Hotel shortly after speaking to labor union officials on March 30, 1981. Hinckley fired six shots at the president from close range. All six missed, but one bullet ricocheted and hit Reagan.
The president was wounded barely two months after taking office. He suffered a punctured lung and severe internal bleeding that required life-saving surgery.
His popular press secretary, James Brady, was left paralyzed after being shot. Two people protecting Reagan were also wounded.
Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He remains in a psychiatric facility in the Washington area but has been allowed to spend some time with his family.
Jablon reported from Los Angeles.