In November 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States, defeating President Jimmy Carter and independent candidate John B. Anderson in a landslide victory. But, unfortunately, Reagan was almost assassinated by a would-be assassin a few months later, on March 30, 1981, in an ambush that horrified the world.
Reagan’s victory, which came after he had already established himself as a well-known actor and a significant figure in the conservative movement, signaled a new era in American politics. He was an outspoken anti-communist who supported the Christian Evangelical movement and vowed to cut government spending and implement trickle-down economics. His strong political leanings, a bleak economy, and foreign issues left him with a mediocre popularity rating when he took office. Still, the assassination attempt outside the Washington Hilton Hotel had little to do with politics.
The president finished addressing a labor gathering at the Washington Hilton Hotel and was heading with his entourage to his vehicle when a deranged drifter named John Hinckley Jr., standing among a group of reporters, opened fire, striking Reagan and three of his aides. James Brady, who was then the White House Press Secretary, was shot in the head and is in serious condition, while Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy got shot in the side. In addition, DC police officer Thomas Delahanty was shot in the neck.
The assassination plot was years in the making
John Hinckley Jr. was not thinking about the Iran Hostage Crisis, economic policy, or gas prices. He stood in the crowd outside the hotel where President Ronald Reagan was speaking to union leaders. Instead, he was thinking that by holding his.22-caliber gun, he might finally wow and win actress Jodie Foster.
Hinckley grew born in Texas as the son of a prosperous oil magnate and briefly relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a career and become a screenwriter. After viewing Martin Scorsese’s film Taxi Driver, in which Foster portrayed a 12-year-old sex trafficking victim opposite Robert DeNiro’s disgruntled cabbie and want to be an assassin, he fell smitten with Foster.
When Foster started at Yale, he went up to New Haven, Connecticut, and slipped love notes under her door, but she never read them. When the stalking failed, Hinckley resolved to show his devotion to the president by assassinating him.
Hinckley accompanied Carter on the campaign road throughout the autumn and into the winter while still in the White House. Hinckley traveled to Washington, Chicago, and Nashville in search of the ideal moment to attack. He was once apprehended by airport police and charged with possessing a weapon, but this did not deter him.
After his incarceration, Hinckley became mentally ill and was unable to improve with psychiatric therapy. His attention eventually moved to the new president.
Hinckley was fascinated with John Lennon and heartbroken by his killing in December, as investigators subsequently learned.
They also discovered a letter Hinckley wrote to Foster hours before his assassination but never sent. He confesses his love for the young actress, who was 18 at the time, and makes it plain that his assassination of the president was only to win her heart.
After Hinckley fired six shots…
Hinckley was overpowered and trapped against a wall after firing the bullets, and President Reagan was pushed into his vehicle by a Secret Service member and transported to the hospital. Reagan didn’t realize he’d been shot at first. When he was flung into the automobile, he feared he had fractured a rib. Reagan wasn’t severely wounded until he started coughing up blood, which alerted Parr.
Returning to the White House, the presidential vehicle was subsequently rerouted to George Washington Hospital instead. Reagan was able to walk inside the hospital on his own when he arrived, but he quickly passed out due to blood loss.
Reagan had been shot, not broken a rib from being tossed into the automobile. One of Hinckley’s bullets ricocheted off the presidential vehicle and struck Reagan in the torso, right beneath his left arm. Reagan was fortunate in that the bullet did not detonate. It had also come dangerously close to striking his heart.
What happened to Reagan after the incident?
Reagan was back on his feet and returned to the White House on April 11. The president resumed certain executive functions the next day, signing a piece of legislation from his hospital bed. After the assassination attempt, Reagan’s popularity skyrocketed, and Congress honored him with a hero’s welcome at the end of April. This same Congress enacted Reagan’s divisive economic plan in August, with some Democrats breaking ranks to support him. Reagan claimed to be healed from the assassination attempt at this point. In private, though, he would suffer for years from the repercussions of the near-fatal bullet wound. This certainly was one of the top political events of the 80s.
What happened to John Hinckley?
Hinckley was placed on trial in 1982 for attempting to assassinate US President Ronald Reagan. Hinckley’s culpability was apparent since the whole assassination attempt had been caught on film, and he had been apprehended at the crime scene. As a result, Hinckley’s counsel attempted to use the insanity defense.
True, Hinckley had a lengthy history of mental health issues. Hinckley had also been fascinated with and stalking actress Jodie Foster for years.
Hinckley was declared “not guilty because of insanity” on 13 charges against him on June 21, 1982. Hinckley was sent to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital after the trial.
Hinckley was recently granted privileges that allow him to visit his parents for many days at a time outside of the hospital.