Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Shooting of President Reagan


On this day in 1981, shortly before 2:30 PM, President Ronald Reagan was shot in the chest outside DC's Hilton Washington Hotel by John Hinckley, Jr. during an assassination attempt which severely injured White House Press Secretary James Brady; police officer Thomas Delahanty and Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy were also shot in the attack, and that evening's planned telecast of the Academy Awards was postponed one day. Hinckley later claimed to have done it to get the attention of Jodie Foster, whom he'd been stalking.

The President was taken to George Washington University Hospital where he was operated on by the head surgeon Joseph Giordano, who it should be noted, was (and probably still is) a liberal Democrat; in the aftermath of the shooting Secretary of State Alexander Haig sparked what was at the time a major scandal by proclaiming 'I'm in control here', even though the Secretary of State is technically fourth in the presidential line of succession. Instead of allaying the nation's fear, the comments were seen as an attempt by Haig to overstep his authority, and some of the more hysterical elements of the Press likened it to a virtual coup by him, until First Lady Nancy Reagan offered them some of her Valium and they finally chilled the Hell out.

Pop culture reaction, though not swift, was sharp when it finally occurred; nearly two years later - on March 12th, 1983 - Saturday Night Live aired a sketch in which Buckwheat (played by Eddie Murphy) was assassinated by 'John David Stutts' (also played by Eddie Murphy); the sketch was a pointed satire on the killings of Lee Harvey Oswald and John Lennon and the attempt on the life of Reagan as covered with repetitive shrillness by the nascent 24-hours news media, then beginning to emerge thanks to networks like CNN.
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