Reagan's 'Welfare Queen' Was Way Worse Than That

Slate digs into the incredible story of Linda Taylor, accused murderer and kidnapper

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 20, 2013 1:20 PM CST

(Newser) – Ronald Reagan made the term "welfare queen" a politically charged term as he ran for president, telling the story of a woman in Chicago who abused the welfare system to incredible heights. Over the years, the tale of a Cadillac-driving government cheat has all but entered the realm of urban legend, but a lengthy Slate piece written by Josh Levin digs into the true story of this woman, Linda Taylor, and it turns out that Reagan wasn't exaggerating. In fact, the real story of Linda Taylor goes far beyond welfare fraud.

"What I found was a woman who destroyed lives, someone far more depraved than even Ronald Reagan could have imagined," writes Levin. "In the 1970s alone, Taylor was investigated for homicide, kidnapping, and baby trafficking. ... Welfare fraud was likely the least of the welfare queen’s offenses." One of the more tantalizing bits is that many think Taylor is responsible for the notorious (and still unsolved) kidnapping of a baby named Paul Joseph Fronczak in Chicago in 1964. And a woman nannied by Taylor in the 1970s alleges that Taylor killed her mother with barbiturates. Taylor, who used countless aliases over the years and was a master of disguise, died in 2002. Click to read the full, fascinating story.

This photograph courtesy of the Richard Avedon Foundation, shows Ronald Reagan in 1976.
This photograph courtesy of the Richard Avedon Foundation, shows Ronald Reagan in 1976.   (AP)
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