Hillary Clinton’s enthusiasm for extraterrestrials got the New York Times treatment Tuesday, with the Gray Lady reporting that the likely Democratic presidential nominee “has vowed that barring any threats to national security, she would open up government files on the subject” of UFOs.

The paper took care to stress that this is not a joke, though President Barack Obama has dismissed the topic as such. Sources said Clinton, known is some quarters as the first “E.T. candidate,” “has embraced this issue with an absolutely unprecedented level of interest in American politics.”

It certainly sounds that way. At the same time, UFOs have a surprisingly rich history in the presidential realm. Several occupants of — and aspirants to — 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have claimed sightings, though they’ve often shied away from the idea that their UFOs were in fact aliens.

Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan both fell into this category.

Carter told Larry King and others about standing with 25 men outside a southwest Georgia school at sundown and seeing a strange, round, color-changing light in the sky. “It got closer and closer, and right above the pine trees it stopped, and then it began to change colors from blue to red to white,” he said. “It stayed there for a while. We were all aghast. We didn’t know what it was. And then it just disappeared into the west. That was the end of it. So it was a genuine UFO in that it was an unidentified flying object, but I have never thought — and still don’t think — it’s possible for creatures from Mars to come here and visit us.”

Reagan had a similar story, relayed to reporters, according to multiple news outlets: “I looked out the window and saw this white light. It was zigzagging around. I went up to the pilot and said, ‘Have you ever seen anything like that?’ He was shocked and he said, ‘nope.’ And I said to him, ‘Let’s follow it!’ We followed it for several minutes. It was a bright white light. We followed it to Bakersfield, and all of a sudden, to our utter amazement, it went straight up into the heavens.”

More recently, Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, the former Ohio congressman, talked about his own sighting in a 2008 debate. Here’s how CNN reported the moment:

He confirmed an account in actress Shirley MacLaine’s book that he saw a UFO at her home in Washington state. Though he didn’t address the rest of her description, that the Ohio congressman “felt a connection in his heart and heard directions in his mind.”

Kucinich said to moderator Tim Russert’s question, “It was an unidentified flying object, OK? It’s, like, it’s unidentified. I saw something.”

Neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton has claimed to have seen a UFO, but the Times quotes the former secretary of state as decidedly open to the possibility. “There’s enough stories out there that I don’t think everybody is just sitting in their kitchen making them up,” she said in a recent radio interview. Clinton also told a New Hampshire paper that Earth may have already been visited by aliens.

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