Skip to main content

tv   QA  CSPAN  November 29, 2015 11:00pm-11:59pm EST

11:00 pm
author ronald feinman. followed by the prime minister's questions. later hillary clinton and bernie sanders and martin o'malley at a democratic fundraiser in manchester, new hampshire. this week on q & a, ronald fineman author of "assassinations, threats, and the american presidency" in his book professor feinman looks at the many assassination attempts and threats against presidents and presidential candidates throughout american history. brian: you have a book called "assassinations, threats, and the american presidency." why did you get interested in this? professor feinman: i would say it all began when i was in college and taking an english course and i had to write a term paper and chose the
11:01 pm
lincoln assassination as my topic. i was fascinated by it. the following year the kennedy assassination took place and kept everyone's interest and has continued and i've been interested in it and i have done interviews, you know, as far as various groups and lectures and two years ago roman littlefield loaned to me an e-mail -- we see and do lectures on the subject and he said would you loo ick to write a book? here i am semiretired, a lot less work to do and more time thinking why not? i said okay. they sought me out and i was pleased to say yes. brian: you start with andrew jackson. what is that story? professor feinman: andrew jackson is the first president we know of that has any problems with assassination threats. there were three such cases. there was the case of a young man who punched him in the nose in 1833, which is pretty minor but a first example of assault.
11:02 pm
then we have the father of later lincoln assassination john wilkes booth who writes a threatening letter to jackson in 1835 and his handwriting has been authenticated by the tennessee history project that it is definitely julius booth himself a well known actor and this is three years before john wilkes booth is born so it makes you wonder if it is genetic or just coincidence that the father and son both have the same thing in their mind. john wilkes booth followed through and of course julius just wrote a threatening letter. brian: as you know there were a lot of duels in those days and andrew jackson had been involved in one. how many times -- brian: i think it was about six times he was involved in a gun battle. jackson was a very meteoric figure. a person who made people
11:03 pm
furious. his time in office was the most contentious it has been since the founding of the republic. i think that's what made the cause in his second term with his stand on the national bank and earlier stand on the nullification crisis that we would have the situation of a people threatening his life. written on it was paper. then there was richard lawrence who came to the u.s. capitol after a funeral for a congressman. jackson was there and actually went ahead and had two pistols on him and he asexual assaults jackson with one pistol fired, misfires unbelievable. second pistol misfired. then jackson stepped on him and kicked him down. he actually helped subdue his own potential assassin. >> summarize as you do in the introduction the amount of
11:04 pm
assassination attempts and threats over the years. >> 16 presidents have faced assassination threats though none directly eyeball to eyeball since ronald reagan. but 16 presidents. also three presidential candidates. i talk about huey long who in 1935 was assassinated. i talk about robert kennedy in and who was assassinated george wallace shot and paralyzed for life in 197 it. i cover candidates as well as presidents. it is a long list, 16 plus three. it could have included andrew johnson who was supposed to be assassinated when lincoln was but the person who was supposed to do it chickened out so as a result johnson was not harmed. brian: can you sum up what kind of person does it? >> definitely mental illness is a key factor. i would not say it is true with john wilkes booth. i think it was purely politics
11:05 pm
about the civil war. he was a confederate sympathizer who was furious at the war ending so that i think is not mental illness but most had mental illness. some of them also joined mental illness with -- some had economic issues, struggling to survive a difficult world. some had religious as well. was ld say sirhan sirhan part of that. mental illness is the one that ally draws people together except john wilkes booth. >> james garfield. >> i would argue james garfield is the biggest loss -- one might say that how could you say that when we have lifpk and kennedy? well, lincoln made quite a record for himself. of course it was a loss. john f. kennedy accomplished quite a bit in a thousand case. garfield, who was a brilliant man, very intellectual, very
11:06 pm
talented, only had four months when he was shot and mortally wounded and suffered 79 days with medical malpractice i guess i would call it. they didn't know what to do. medicine was not very advanced then. i often say, a hundred years later ronald reagan was saved in 1981 because of the times. had it been 1881 he would have been gone. i think garfield could have been and is believed by many experts to have been possibly could have been the best president since lifpblg, until teddy roosevelt. but of course he only lasted two and a half months after four months so he had the second shortest term in the presidency after william henry harrison who died of pneumonia after one month in 1841. >> you say of course he was killed. r shot here in town. by a man -- who was he and what happened to him after all this? >> he was a man who was definitely a lunatic. he was a very unstable person.
11:07 pm
but the story about him is interesting because he claims he made campaign speeches for garfield in 1880 which he might have before some audiences. you like to be up on soap boxes as we say. garfield felt in his crazy mind that what he should get is an ambassadorship either to austria, hungry, or france even though he was not of any renown. he went to the white house a few times and met with president garfield and secretary of state james g. blain and came in with information and i guess you would say they humored him. they spoke to him, were nice to him. he left some information. we said we'll be back to you be you they did nothing about it because he was not qualified for the kind of position he was pplying for. there was no secret service protection yet. it was created in 1865 to deal with counterfeit currency but not otherwise.
11:08 pm
was on lifpblg's desk to be killed but the point is it wasn't until william mckinley n 1901 was assassinated, lifpblg 1865, garfield 1881 and william mckinley in 1901 that finally the secret service became the agency that would be responsible for the president. back in 1881 the story goes there wh two white house police officers. so they would check when people came to see garfield? no. they were not there to check people going into the building but to keep people off the lawn. imagine that. crazy. >> what happened? >> he ended up going on trial. he acted very crazy in his trial, dancing and singing. he put on a performance that he was mentally ill which i think he was. but there was not a feeling
11:09 pm
this mental illness should prevent him from being executed and after the trial and appeal he was executed in june, 1882. >> recently we were in buffalo at the buffalo history museum talking to melissa brown. let's run a little bit of this nd you can fill in the blanks. >> leon was the assassin that shot president mckinley, around age 25 or 26 at the time. he was deemed to be, certainly this plays out in the newspaper, an anarchist with sympathies toward emma goldman. he had a myriad of issues going on not least of which were his politics but when you read the newspaper and the coverage that plays out in the time period, you know, it is very hard to get a true impression of who this man was. >> what were the circumstances that showed us doctor-
11:10 pm
>> he was an anarchist. even though emma never said to him, and he did meet emma goldman, did not say to kill anybody but the fact is he was a person who had this idea because he believed in anarchism that his mission was to kill the president of the united states. somehow would get away with it, you know, escape. then go to great britain and kill the king of england and escape and go to vatican city and execute -- be the -- assassinate the pope. the whole idea someone wong he could get away with this is just really unbelievable when you think about it. >> how long did mckinley live? >> he lasted eight days. he also had not the best medical contention. x-rays had not been invented yet at the time of garfield and mckinley. the bullet was not renoffed in -- removed in either case. the fact is that he suffered
11:11 pm
eight days. it didn't seem like he was going to die so vice president theodore roosevelt was up in new york at the adirondack mountains hunting because he figured mckinley was going to be fine. and a had to be found certain number of hours went by before they could find him to tell him the president is dead and you are now the president. it was a little panicky for a while. where is teddy roosevelt? >> you claim in your book teddy roosevelt wouldn't have been elected president had he not been -- his president when he was vice president had been assassinated? you think he wouldn't have made it on his own? >> he was a replacement vice president. this is something people don't realize. one of the real forgotten people is garret hobart who was vice president under mckinley in the first term and was very close to mckinley, very close. his wife was close to both the first lady and mckinley. but he died of heart disease in 1899. there was no provision to
11:12 pm
replace the vice president so there was none. if mckinley had been killed before the second term the secretary of state would have been next who was john hay who was quite famous. and the point is that t.r. was selected bite second term and it was just coincidence in 1901 after six months, he is president but it could have been president hobart if hobart had not gotten in office. >> so t.r. goes on to be president, gets elected in 190 h and chooses not to run in 1908. william howard taft is elected. we have some video from something called the art of mannelness from u tube. it's done a little bit in animation. let's watch this and again you'll tell us the rest of the story. >> sure. >> while campaigning for a third term of the presidency in 1912 authored -- thoord exited a hotel in milwaukee and took a
11:13 pm
seat in an open air car. as the crowd gathered around the vehicle roosevelt stood up to wave at them. at that point a local saloon keeper lunged through the well wishers and shot t.r. from a distance of seven feet. the bone was slowed by a copy of a speech he would give later and an eye glasses case, app lost in his chest. as the would be assassin was subdued roosevelt assessed the damage. when he reached under his shirt to feel the wound, his hand came out bloodied. pleas he there were go immediately to the hospital but he refused and wanted to give his speech to 10,000 people waiting to hear him speak. once he arrived and though the left half of his body was turning black roosevelt mounted the stage unaided, unbuttoned his shirt to show the audience
11:14 pm
and declared -- >> i have just been shot but it takes more than that to kill a bull moose. >> the impact of all that on theodore roosevelt? i know he didn't win. what about on his person? >> i think it undermined his health. of course he was a daring guy. he was always a bit of a carrick. he decided to go into the amazon river basin with his son in 1914 and got malaria there and nearly died. the amazon river expedition. when you think about it he was always wanting to prove that he was strong and mannel since the time he was a kid when he was bullied and had asthma and decided to build up his body and be sports active. even in his 1950's he was still wanting to do things like the amazon river expedition. he was a gutsy, courageous guy and a real colorful person just about the most colorful president we ever had i think. >> the man that shot him, what happened to him?
11:15 pm
>> he was adjudge the mentally ill and put into an institution. not executed. i don't know why they did that. he stayed there until his death 1943 and had no visitors at all in this report. he was really in isolation but he said at the end of his life, he made the statement that he had tried to kill a, "bull moose." >> did you say in your book they didn't take the bullet out? >> the bullet was never taken out. >> why not? >> they just, i don't know. they just did not. it seems hard to believe because by that time they had x-rays. they knew where it was but seemed to feel it might cause more damage if they removed it than leaving it because it was not apparently affecting him. i think it probably did undermine his general health and then he went off to the amazon river basin in brazil and that i think was really a crazy thing to do when you look back on it. >> back in those days after the did finished his speech,
11:16 pm
he go back on the campaign trail after he went to the doctor >> no. he rested about 10 days and the other candidates suspended their campaigns for those 10 days but then he went back. yes. and if i may, i wanted to point out something we don't much know t.r. was also at least in theory threatened when he was president in 1903. i uncovered this and i'm not aware of anybody else knowing it that i know of. a man came to his home in oyster bay, long island when t.r. was home, wanted to see him one evening. and the secret service wasn't there to protect him because it was 1903. 1901 the secret service began protection. he said i want to see the president. he was asked if he had an appointment. no. it's 8:00 at night. sorry. he leaves. he comes back about an hour later. asks again. sir, we told you, you don't have an appointment. it's too late. he leaves. comes back at 11:00. a third time. now they're getting suspicious so they investigate him.
11:17 pm
you know, they take him to the barn nearby and discover he has a body armor on him. the theory is t.r. could have been hurt if he had actually agreed to meet this stranger and he went to a mental institution where he stayed the rest of his life in kingsport, new york. >> one thing i noticed is you are talking about the assassination and the early presidents. they were tried and convicted and sent to prison or i don't know how many of them died after -- >> lawrence was put in a mental institution from jackson's time. -- now, >> how quickly did they do the executions? today it takes forever to get even a trial. >> in the case of jaugous it was very quick. in the case of gouteau it was seven or eight months after
11:18 pm
garfield's death. if you want to talk about the quickest execution it is that of the man who tried to kill franklin d. roosevelt. five weeks after he tried to do it. and he had killed in chicago. he was executed by the state of florida, very quick, five weeks. >> you say five people were wounded in miami. what is the whole story? >> zengara was an y tail yap immigrant who had come to this country and was struggling and having trouble making a living. we now know he even thought of, maybe didn't take action, shooting president hoover because of the depression times. but on february 15, 1933, president-elect franklin d. roosevelt is in miami, florida at bay front park at a democratic party gathering. there are thousands of people there to meet and greet him. he is in the crowd, a short little guy only about five feet tall.
11:19 pm
he gets up on a chair and aims s weapon at f.d.r. and unfortunately he mortally wounds mayor cermak of chicago who is there. and mayor cermak is famous for his statement bet mere than you to f.d.r. as he is on the way to the hospital. i think that is very patriotic to say that when you're being shot. better me than you. but because of franklin d. roosevelt being the president-elect. had he been killed, john garner one of the 15 might have beens, vice president elect, former speaker of the house, would have been president. most likely the new deal would never have occurred. >> we have video of an interview with zangara in 1933. it's only 30 seconds. let's see what he looks like. >> sure. >> no, sir. >> you like mr. roosevelt as a man? > i like him as --
11:20 pm
>> would you shoot me? >> you're not president. >> you won't shoot me? >> why wouldn't i shoot you. >> if we let you go would you kill now? >> yeah. if you let me go. >> how soon afterwards was he executed? >> five weeks. >> how come? >> why did it go so fast? >> the state of florida first put him on trial for assault on mayor cermak. mayor cermak lasted about two weeks but after his death they changed it to murder and they convicted him extremely quickly and the appeal was very quick. almost too quick. and he was executed. so his is the quickest execution even more than zogo with mckinley. what is usually the weapon of choice for these assassins? >> well, it is always a gun. often it's a weapon such as the
11:21 pm
type that was used in the 19th century. i'm not an ex-pevert on the type of guns so at the moment i can't think of the exact names. >> i do remember he had a 38 and a 22. i'm not an expert either. how often was it a pistol versus a rifle? >> it was much more often a pistol. here we are. yes. huey long of course is especially interesting character, governor, and every man a king. you know, the king fish as he was known. un, he was controversial and some people thought he was a fascist. he had his own private fort. the fact is huey long also was seen by some as socialistic although socialist party leader norman thomas said he was -- some people thought he had the potential of being adolph
11:22 pm
hittler type. he scared a lot of people but had a lot of followers. he had a radio show. and he became a real burr in the side of the u.s. senate. one of those people a loft the senate just didn't like and didn't get along with. he kept on attacking franklin d. roosevelt and declared he as going to run. he did not actually announce because people didn't announce that far ahead as they do now. he was on his way to running for president in 1936 when he was assassinated by a medical doctor, dr. carl austin white on september 8th, 1935 and dies on september 10. way he was he mistreated they said for surgery and medicare, there are a lot of conspiracy theories that maybe people just wanted him dead. and they would also say dr. white did not actually shoot
11:23 pm
him. they claim he didn't have a gun on him. his son spent his life trying to defend his father. the point is we never had a chance to find out because the guards around fired on white and pumped him full of 61 bullets at the time of the assassination in the state capital in baton rouge and there are still questions about what really happened whether by accidents or not accidents that maybe his own guys killed him and it is still very controversial to me. >> he was i think you say 25 at the time? >> yes. >> we have some video. this is his, you'll see his son, dr. wise's son, and you'll david s is done by munuony and lucy kruets and this is from 2014. it is about a minute and at the end you'll see dr. weis after e's been shot.
11:24 pm
>> my mother has always been very vague. she told me my father was killed in an accidental shooting. half the time they're thinking ha you're son of an assassin. >> the official version is this. dr. weis walked up to huey long, said not a word, and pulled the pistol and he shot huey. all the body guards had at least two guns and they emptied every gun and ev bullet into carl weis's body. >> there are certain things that don't make any sense in this case. >> there was not an autopsy of either of the parties. , if there was something people had plenty of time to coordinate their stories. >> there is no proof carl weis carried the gun. >> many people wonder why a man would leave home on a sunday night and walk into a situation
11:25 pm
that meant certain death. >> what was the impact of this? >> well, i think there were some who thought he might be a threat to f.d.r. certainly removed that threat. and i guess there are some conspiracy theories who think f.d.r. may have somehow engineered this but not seriously i don't think. but definitely removed him as a political figure to be concerned about as far as possibly his impact on the presidential election. 1936 or 1940. >> you then moved to harry truman. what is the story -- how was he threatened? >> i tell you, there were three possible people who could have become president. in 1947 according to margaret truman his daughter, it was said one of the terrorist groups trying to create an independent israel which had not yet been formed sent letter bombs supposedly to try to kill president truman.
11:26 pm
they had been involved in killing figures in palestine after world war ii so the argument was there was a letter bomb sent for truman and it was of course prevented from getting to him and was indeed resolved without trouble. at that point in 1947 depending the timing we have this succession law changed. the succession act, there have been three. the second one was 1886-1947. the third one is the one now in effect. the he second one was that secretary of state would be next in line because truman succeeded franklin roosevelt but then changed to be the speaker of the house and representatives. later in the year in 1947 after the law changed it would have been republican speaker of the house joseph w. martin jr. who would have been president so two potential might have beens depending on the timing of the
11:27 pm
event that occurred that could have led to the death of president truman. >> we have some video of something we did here at c-span in 2009 outside the blair house. what were the circumstances? we'll eventually show where harry truman was standing at the window watching these gunmen. >> yes. i guess the formation threat, at least the one much more known about is the 1950 on when the , 1950 trumans were not in the white house. it was being renovated. they were in blair house. there were two puerto rican independents who wanted an independent puerto rico. there had been a recent uprising in puerto rico on a few days earlier which had been suppressed by the u.s. government and they were furious because i think they lost one of their sisters or other relatives. they decided they were going to kill president truman.
11:28 pm
the gun play went on for about three minutes and a secret service agent was killed and a white house police officer shot and seriously wounded be you truman was looking from blair house out the window and was told by secret service agents somewhere get inside. get away from the windows. he was watching the events occurring right before his eyes. >> the video includes a man named stephen hunter who has written a book about this and blair house is right across the street from the white house. >> here he is loading his gun. nobody in the world has seen him yet except the two men, three men he has now shot. still et service are consumed with the man shooting at them as they're shooting at him. at that moment, harry truman comes to the window. he had been up there in his underwear. he heard the shots and he came
11:29 pm
to the window. it was open we know and he did look out. so there is a moment, this very teetery, scary moment when he was loading the gun. >> right here. >> remember, he is a very good shot. harry truman is right up there. >> any other examples of where harry truman was attempted, somebody attempted to assassinate him? >> not that i'm aware of except the one in 1947 which doesn't have a lot of information. mostly martha truman and the 1950 case. that's the two cases. >> you can say anything you want to about this. i'm skipping both abraham lincoln and john f. kennedy because we hear so much about it. there's been so many books written. you deal with it here. i want to go to robert kennedy's assassination. >> robert kennedy sought the presidency in 1968 and a year earlier we had the middle east
11:30 pm
war, six-day war, and robert kennedy backed israel against jordan, syria, and egypt. a year later on the exact anniversary of the six-day war he is going to shot and mortally wounded. he'll last about 26 hours and die on june 6. he's actually shot on june 5 which is exact opening day of he six-day war a year earlier. it is sirhan sirhan who is a palestinian arab christian i wish to point out. not a muslim. he is a palestinian who had been born in palestine and come to the united states and had all kinds of mental issues and problems. he was a strong believer in the idea of an independent palestine and was resentful of what israel had done in the war a year earlier taking over new territories. so he was working at the ambassador hotel and he was in the kitchen and the question still arises why did robert kennedy go through the kitchen
11:31 pm
pantry as he was leaving the rally. it is still hard to understand why. it is still a very perplexing story. you say in your book he has applied for parole 13 times over the years but has been denied and remained in prison after 47 years. >> it's true and he is the only attempted assassin to have been in prison that long. the two women who tried to kill president ford were released. the difference may be they didn't hurt president ford. maybe the difference is in cases where the president was not harmed. >> david frost interviewed sirhan sirhan. here is a minute of what he sounded like back then. > i noticed that advertisement announcing a parade planned to
11:32 pm
be held that evening in los angeles at the miracle mile they called it. and it was to celebrate the of the year before and there was to be sport of -- sort of an anniversary parade for the jewish community in l.a. that incensed me. i said well i have nothing else to do tonight. i'm going to go down and see what those people are up to. when i heard there was a big party up there at the ambassador a few blocks away, then i decided to go down there and check it out. that led me to the ambassador. the big party that was going to e held down there. i went down and got myself in trouble. >> did he plead insanity? >> be yes. but it did not lead to anything other than putting him in prison.
11:33 pm
but he also all the time claims that he didn't remember being there. the different stories at different times of the year since. he's obviously mentally unable. >> how long was the trial and how long did it take to put him in prison? >> i don't recall exactly but the trial, it took a few months. you know, but certainly it did not drag on for a long time. >> another president was george wallace. >> yes. george wallace was of course shot and paralyzed for life sadly on may 15, 1972 in laurel, maryland at a shopping center there by arthur bremer who had read up on lee harvey oswald the john kennedy assassin, read up on sirhan sirhan the robert kennedy assassin and, you know, he was someone who wanted to get a ced and again it was mental illness. even more serious than his shooting and paralyzing of wallace is that he stalked richard nixon and he didn't
11:34 pm
shoot him of course but had he shot and killed nixon, this would have been earlier than may, 1972, this would have been before watergate scandal erupted. it never would have occurred. spiro agnew would have become president and of course later we learned of his own illegal activities which forced him out. so the thought comes to mind that he could have been president and then maybe be facing impeachment instead of richard nixon. >> i read it, if i read right in your book he was the youngest of all the assassins at age 21. >> yes. he ou say in your book that has been released, 2007. >> yes he was. >> where is he today? >> i think if i'm correct he has to stay within the state of maryland and i think he had to report to a parole officer i believe. but he didn't kill wallace. maybe that's the difference why he finally got released. he shot and paralyzed him. wallace lived his other 26
11:35 pm
years. yes he has been released around the same time the two women who tried to kill president ford were released. >> thanks to abc news we have a little bit of a background viewing of the assassination attempt right here in the suburbs of washington. >> as always seems to be the case with this kind of tragedy there was no inkling of trouble. governor wallace encountered heckling earlier in the day as he toured the maryland suburbs of washington but the crowd at laurel seemed receptive and friendly. governor wallace just finished speaking and had taken off his coat. was shaking hands when four of five shots were fired. two of them were recorded in this film by abc news cameraman charlie jones. governor wallace's wife cornelia who was nearby when he was shot bent over him. later she said he seemed to be conscious. the shooting took place so quickly and produced so much confusion details are still not
11:36 pm
totally clear. one campaign worker jack ingram provides a description of the would be assassins. ingram said he was trying to shake hands with the governor when a man nearby kept shouting, hey george. he said the man stuck a gun right in governor wallace's stomach and fired. doctors say there were three major wounds in the leg, arm, and chest. >> you have a picture in your book ofeth l kennedy holding his hand. george wallace's hand in the hospital. how unusual is that? >> well, she had experienced the loss of a husband four years earlier and i found that, you know, in the alabama archives and i thought this is an interesting photograph because it's not just showing that he's recovering but also that even if there are political differences party lines are not an issue when it comes to threats to a candidate or to a president. i think it was very gracious of her and very nice that she did come to see him. we have that great photograph, yes. >> how many other original items like that or even information do you have in the book? did you find a lot of new things? >> photographs?
11:37 pm
>> anything. in other words, how much new research were you able to find? >> well, as i go back to the lincoln situation, lincoln had andrew johnson as vice president and was supposed to be killed by one of the other conspirators with john wilkes booth but he wasn't. it would been killed, not have been the secretary of state who was knight at time -- it wouldn't have been the speaker of the house. it would have been the original law of 1792 that said the president pro temporary of the senate would be next in line and that was, and i had to really think hard on this, senator forester of connecticut. i picked him up and made him somewhat famous. you know, he was the connecticut republican senator. i don't know what kine of president he would have been but i do think andrew johnson was a tragic figure and that i have to believe forrester would probably have been better if he
11:38 pm
had taken over. there is also the story andrew johnson was the second-term vice president. lincoln decided to replace hannibal hamlin his first term vice president for political reasons. he wanted a southerner on the ticket as johnson was. say he had not done that, and hamlin would have been the president, another forgettable and not well known person, these are people that i've been able to show would have been president if circumstances had been a little different. >> from nbc news, this is a report about robert preston flying a huey helicopter on to the white house lawn during richard nixon's term. >> the bizarre chase came to an end when the stolen helicopter landed or was forced down on the south lawn of the white house. maryland state police say the young pilot had to be forcibly subdued. for the next several hours the aircraft was thoroughly examined by police, federal officials, and army mechanic.
11:39 pm
they determined that despite the buck shot fired by executive protection service it could be flown away. it had been stolen around midnight from an army transportation squadron at nearby fort mead, maryland. during the joy ride over the suburban countryside the craft was reportedly flown with considerable skill. the joy riding pilot was identified as 20-year-old robert preston an army mechanic reportedly unhappy over flunking out of flight school. he was charged with unlawful entry into the white house grounds. he is in the psychiatric ward of walter reed army medical center. >> what happened to him? did he go to prison? >> he was kept in prison for a while but not long. he was released after i think a year or two. >> was he after richard nixon's life or just wanting to land the helicopter? >> i think he was a little mentally disturbed and just wanted attention. i don't think from what i can gather he was trying to
11:40 pm
threaten richard nixon. >> there was a broadway play called the assassins. >> i mention it in my book. >> here is a 50-second clip. how do you pronounce the man -- >> sammy byck. >> what did he do? >> he never got to do it but he wanted to try to hijack a plane in the baltimore washington airport. he did not succeed. he ended up killing the pilots and injured the copilot. he wanted to hijack a plane or have the pilot take a plane with him in it and indeed hit the white house and of course richard nixon wasn't even there at that time but he wanted to attack the white house. when i first came across this and it was pretty well hidden, wasn't talked about much at the time, it got covered more later by history channel having a show about it and sean penn doing a movie the assassination of richard nixon which when it first came out i said what? i couldn't figure out what that was about.
11:41 pm
because i didn't know much about it back in that time like 2004. but the point is that had he been able to somehow accomplish that, that would have been september 11, 27 years before september 11. that's what is astounding about it. >> here is from the assassins broadway musical. just 50 seconds. >> hello, mr. bernstein. lenny, how you doing? my name is sam. we've never met. you're a world renowned composer and conductor who travels the world over enjoying one success after another. and i'm an out of work tire salesman so i guess that is not. but i hope you'll take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to listen to this tape which you just opened in the mail and if you can't listen to it now, maybe you could listen
11:42 pm
♪ it ♪ tonight tonight i love that song! >> featured in that broadway musical nine different assassination attempts. what happened to this guy? > well, he was killed by a police officer in the baltimore airport. he did not succeed. but he had left a tape behind for jack anderson the columnist in order to make clear what he intended to do. he really wanted attention because he had a miserable life economically and wanted to blame richard nixon for that. this was the time of watergate so i think it was partly their idea this guy has to go and i'll get him to go sooner rather than later. >> i got the feeling when i read the chapter on gerald ford that he may have had the most attempts and threats and he was only there for two and a half years. what are the stories?
11:43 pm
>> well, most attempts ever would be lincoln and barack obama as far as that. but gerald ford had two women 17 days apart in september, 1975, threaten his life. these were both in california. the first on september 5, 1975, in sacramento. lynette "squeaky" fromm a follower of charles manson obviously not quite all there mentally and used drugs and other things but was unhappy because gerald ford had not done good things in her mind on the environment, you know, as far as the environment is concerned and just generally did not like the kind of stance he was taking but she had a weapon on her in her dress. she did not actually draw the weapon. she did not actually directly threaten. she had it on her but she was not the kind of direct threat that 17 days later sarah jane moore was on september 22, 1975 when we had indeed her fire a
11:44 pm
weapon at gerald ford in san francisco and a former marine knocked her hand and saved ford from any harm. that also caused a big uproar about who the successor would have been because gerald ford had been approved by the house and senate, former governor nelson rockefeller of new york to be his vice president and of course rockefeller was the liberal wing of the republican party and had a problem getting confirmed because many republicans and southern democrats didn't want him. now twice in 17 days the thought is oh, my gosh we have rockefeller see a prr for a moment and after that the reagan wing of the republican party was battling for the nomination with gerald ford. that's why ford was a california campaign those two times. what happens is that when ford finally defeated reagan by about a hundred delegate votes they made it clear we will not
11:45 pm
back you unless you dump rockefeller and pick senator bob dole of kansas. he did that and then lost a lose race to jimmy carter. after the fact he said if he had kept rockefeller he might have won. i think he might have. it was very close. >> alan coen of wchs news 8 west virginia 1987 interviewed lynette "squeaky" fromm. >> i actually said to myself are you going to use this gun on your leg, this weighty piece that was walking me down there to the capitol building? and i said, let's just go and see. he had his hands out and was aving and had just come from breakfast with the businessmen and he looked like cardboard to me. but at the same time, i had ejected the bullet in my apartment and i used the gun as
11:46 pm
it was. >> the chamber was empty but secret service agents found four bullets in the clip. she claims she was given the gun for protection and when ford came to town she used it to take a stand on the environment. >> he said, i got to go and talk to him. and then i thought that's foolish. he is not going to stop and talk to you. they don't think anything of it. >> where is she today? >> they both have been released. i'm not sure where they're living but both released in 2007 independently of each other and, you know, we don't hear anything about them. again, they did not harm the president. they only threatened him. >> so you get a pass from the judicial system. if you don't actually kill the president? >> well, they were in prison until 2007 and this was like 30 years. but it does seem to make a difference. because they did not actually harm him. i think they would face every
11:47 pm
-- would face 32 years in prison and they did not kill anyone in their perspective would be hard enough. >> here's gerald ford talking about an assassination attempt. >> approximately half way between l street and the state capitol i noticed a person in in a ond or third row brightly colored dress who shake hands ant to or speak or get closer to me. i hesitated and said, keeping moving as i normally i saw a s i stopped, hand come through the crowd in
11:48 pm
the first row and that was the only active gesture that i saw. but in the hand was a weapon. >> you also talk about the intruders and you list them all. a group of people that tried to get in the white house. were they trying to do harm to the president or just wanted to get in the white house? >> some i think wanted to harm in some cases. i think there were a couple cases under bill clinton. a couple cases under barack obama. and also under george w. bush. but i think a lot of them are just looking for attention or mentally disturbed and they don't even know why they're there. i think a lot of times they are confused. they are definite threats that have occurred. and of course the one that is most startling is under barack obama last year on september 19 when omar gonzalez was able to get over the fence and actually get into white house. nobody else has ever been able to do that. that's led to more improvements
11:49 pm
on fencing and of course the need to change the secret service and bring it more up to par because these kind of things are very scary as for presidential candidates as well. >> i didn't remember this but in your book you talk about the man gerald ganes was a d.c. resident who climbed the fence around the white house during gerald r. ford twice in 11 days 1975 and again in 1976. did it make kind of publicity -- >> no. i had trouble finding it. i had to dig deep. >> why do you think they didn't publicize it back then? >> the secret service doesn't like to -- if it is very public they have to but i don't think they want us to know every case and i think i understand why because it could make things much more, people could be much more concerned about the safety of the president. i think the thought of always reporting everything to the news media if it can be avoided i think they try to avoid it. i generally agree. >> you also point out that in
11:50 pm
the first incident he was on the ground unimpeded for an hour and a half actually a post president daughter susan ford and you say that wasn't easy to find. >> no. it was not easy to find. no. a lot of things that i reported -- are not reported in the news media. they're hushed up. >> lynette "squeaky" fromm who fired, there was no bullet in the chamber, fired at gerald ford. >> didn't actually fire. she had it on her. sarah jane moore fired. >> are they the only two women you found over the years? >> the only other case would be mary cerat who had the boarding house where booth and the conspirators including her own son met. he she was the first woman hanged by the u.s. government. she was not directly involved in the events of the day but she was involved in the conspiracy though some people have said she was a victim and should not have been executed. just like dr. samuel martin.
11:51 pm
still not clear. did he actually know booth or not? there are different stories from different times and view points. there is still confusion about it. >> one more on gerald ford because we get to hear sarah jane moore talk about what her mission was from an abc news documentary. >> sarah jane moore's motives were confused. her purpose was not. >> i knew that's the only shot i would have. came out, looked right at me. d after i fired the shot, he stopped cold. i did have time for a second shot. had never planned for a second shot. had practiced and was psyched for one shot. >> one shot might have done it if it hadn't been for a man who almost wasn't there. vietnam veteran oliver sepple just happened to be downtown. >> the guy is from michigan. i've never seen him. stick around and see what he looks like. everybody started pushing
11:52 pm
everybody. for some strange reason i oked out and i saw sara jane moore. " yelled "the woman has a gun. >> out of prison now. >> yes. both of them. but sirhan sirhan is still in prisonment >> so this book for you took how long? >> i'd been thinking of it over the years of the elections but two years ago i was asked to author this book and i agreed. i went through several drafts and had a number of people help me. then all the other stages to the point where it finally got published in august so basically two years. >> and where do you teach? >> i teach at florida atlantic university in boca raton, florida. in the history department. >> so if i was in your class what would i be learning about? >> well, i talk about the u.s. in the 1960's going to 1974.
11:53 pm
so basically from kennedy to nixon. the new deal. i published another book earlier on the new deal period. i like to teach that. also the u.s. since 1945. the u.s. 1945. i've also done diplomatic history which i am very much interested in and also the american presidency and we'll be teaching a class in the spring on the american presidency. >> where are you from originally? >> from new york. from queens county, j maka, queens. i like to joke i was born in the same hospital as donald trump just a year and a half difference in age and then went to national county and then to south florida in 1989. >> where did you get your education? >> i wasn't to queens college in the city of university of new york, undergraduate and masters and then the graduate school and my dissertation adviser who also helped me get it published --. >> what do you remember from him? >> fascinating man.
11:54 pm
i was very proud to have taken courses with him and that he sponsored me for my dissertation and then i had to cut it down but i got it published in 1981 under the title twilight of progressivism the western republican senate ors and the new deal. >> when you go out and make speeches what does your audience want to know the most about? >> they are always most interested in the john f. kennedy conspiracy theories and also lincoln. they don't seem to care as much or know as much about mckinley and garfield. i think that is sad because i think garfield is a real tragedy and even mckinley is but somehow it's john f. kennedy, maybe robert kennedy big also, and abraham lincoln that drew the most owe -- the most attention. we haven't talked about four presidents. ronald reagan, bill clinton, george w. bush, and barack obama. what would you like to say about those? there is obviously more in your book. >> john hinckley was the person
11:55 pm
who shot president reagan and president reagan was not wearing a bullet proof vest that day. it is a short trip to the white house. the secret service wasn't either and they were both wounded. if he had worn it he wouldn't have had the serious wound he could have died from. the thing is john hinckley was stalking jimmy carter before this. during the fall of 1980. so if he had killed carter walter mondale would have become president and maybe hard to know, maybe the sympathy of the death of carter maybe ronald reagan wouldn't have won in 1980. who knows? that is certainly possible. i don't think there is any question. barack obama in 2008 had two conspiracies against him by young people, young men, in denver, colorado. the plan was to try to kill them at the convention as he accepted the nomination for president. so when i hear that i say, the candidate syndrome, and also in
11:56 pm
tennessee and there's been constant death threats against them. and of course the omar gonzalez thing wasn't directly against him. he wasn't in the building but there have been so many death threats. >> the omar gonzalez thing was what? >> he is the man who, you know, leaped over the fence and got in the white house a year ago and the only person who went into the white house and that is alarming but indicates the security broke down and apparently one be of the secret service agents inside the building was asleep. >> if you had more time and a bigger book what would you have devoted it to? >> you mean a different topic? >> no. on this topic. is there a lot you could have, more that you could have talked about? >> well, an interesting idea would be possibly write a book on the 15 might have beens beyond the chapter. look into the background of these 15 men which includes
11:57 pm
people we know very well like joe biden, dick cheney, walter mondale, al gore, spiro agnew but also includes some others. hannibal hamlin, joseph martin jr. and others. it would be interesting to go further into that and it's possible what? i'm not sure what i'll do. i think there is enough information on that. >> what the question everybody asks you when you're interviewed? >> well, why do you like such a mosht subject? the answer is it is fass. >> on that note, ronald l. feinman the author of "assassins, threats, and the american presidency" we're out of time and we thank you very much. > thank you.
11:58 pm
♪ >> for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program visit us at q & the programs are also available s c-span podcasts. >> if you liked this q & a program here are some others you might enjoy. author scott miller on his book about the assassination of president william mckinley. former abc news correspondent ann compton on her 41-year career covering the white house. and former secret service agent clint hill about his assignment guarding first lady jacqueline kennedy. find those interviews online at


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on