"It actually was one of my sons," the former president says in a new documentary, "which [Nelson] didn't want to categorize as a pot-smoker like him"

By Virginia Chamlee
September 11, 2020 02:49 PM
Jimmy Carter, Willie Nelson
Former President Jimmy Carter (left) and Willie Nelson
| Credit: Scott Cunningham/Getty; Michael Kovac/Getty

In the new documentary Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President, the 39th president confirms that, yes, country legend Willie Nelson did indeed smoke pot on the roof of the White House in 1978 — though it was actually with Carter's son, and not a White House worker, as Nelson has previously said.

"When Willie Nelson wrote his autobiography, he confessed that he smoked pot in the White House one night when he was spending the night with me," Jimmy Carter says in the doc. "And he says that his companion that shared the pot with him was one of the servants in the White House. That is not exactly true — it actually was one of my sons, which he didn't want to categorize as a pot-smoker like him."

Stories about the incident between Nelson, now 87, and James Earl “Chip” Carter III had swirled for years.

The film — currently available in select theaters and virtually — recounts Carter's second child as serving of something as a liaison between musicians and the administration. (For his part, Chip briefly commented on what happened in 2015, telling GQ that Nelson "told me not to ever tell anybody.")

As for those who didn't like Carter's relationship with musicians like Nelson, Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers, the former president says in the film, "I was doing what I really believed, and the response I think from the followers of those musicians was much more influential than the people who thought [of] that being inappropriate for a president."

In his post-White House decades, Carter and his wife, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, have focused on humanitarian efforts, including decades building homes for Habitat for Humanity and diplomatic work that earned him a Nobel Peace Prize.

The president, 95, has been in poor health in recent years however — undergoing brain surgery in November and suffering several falls that led to hospital stays.

The Carters made their most recent public remarks in August, filming a speech endorsing Joe Biden that aired at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.