Friday, February 19, 2016

Fact Check: Not All Presidential Assassins Were Democrats

The other day on Facebook, a connection posted the below image which erroneously claims that most presidential assassins are democrats or socialists.  And since I made the decision to be less political on Facebook this year (Dumb. Dumb decision.), I used my blog to make my point: 

Needless to say, the very first line caught my attention (because I know a little something about that subject) and I immediately said out loud, "uh, no he wasn't".  So then I read the rest and realized how inaccurate the entire post is.  

This image is most likely spawn from that pillar of decency, Ann Coulter, who in an interview with CBS's Harry Smithsaid:
...every presidential assassin -- or attempted presidential assassin in the history of the nation has either been a liberal, a communist, an anarchist, someone on the left, or there were two who had no politics whatsoever unless you count John Hinckley, who is certifiably insane.
On the surface, it sounds like Coulter may have a point, after all, the most famous presidential assassin in recent memory, Lee Harvey Oswald, was a Communist, not a Socialist.  The image also forgets to mention Anarchist Leon Czolgosz, who was President William McKinley's assassin (how many people even know that guy's name?). But is Ann right when she says that every last assassin and attempted assassin was "a liberal, a communist, an anarchist", excluding John Hinckley, who gets off because he was insane?

So I decided to do some quick fact-checking, at least where the US Presidents are concerned to dispel the first 5 items in the list:  

1.  The first and most famous presidential assassin effectively makes Coulter wrong. John Wilkes Booth (Lincoln's assassin) was a Pro-confederate, very conservative Episcopal, who was a member of the "Know-Nothing Party", which was an extremist religious conservative group whose platform would be familiar with many conservatives and republicans today. Here is a brief sample of what the party stood for:

  • Severe limits on immigration, especially from Catholic countries 
  • Restricting political office to native-born Americans 
  • Mandating a wait of 21 years before an immigrant could gain citizenship 
  • Restricting public school teachers to Protestants 
  • Mandating daily Bible readings in public schools 
  • Restricting the sale of liquor 
To call Booth a liberal is not just absurd, there is no way anyone can support such a notion given the man's history. This one assassin alone, clearly the most famous in U.S. history, is enough to demolish Coulter's theory. 

2.  Charles J. Guiteau (James Garfield's assassin) described himself as a Theocrat and was member of a strange Christian cult called "The Oneida Community". He supported the Republican party, and President Grant's election, so technically, that makes him a conservative. He was arguably insane, and believed that God ordered him to assassinate Garfield for being ungrateful for Guiteau's work in helping Garfield get elected.

3.  Lee Harvey Oswald (John F. Kennedy's assassin) was definitely a Communist, not a Socialist (big difference). No doubt about it. He actually defected to the former Soviet Union, lived there for a while, and then came back to live in the US, where he became well known as a fierce supporter of Cuba

4.  There were two people who attempted to kill Gerald Ford.  The first, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme was certified Insane, a member of the bizarre Charles Manson's "family's" religious cult which preached an apocalyptic message. I don't know if that makes them automatically conservative, so we'll just put this in the "Insane" category. Anyone who has seen Charles Manson knows that he's insane. 

And also Sara Jane Moore attempted to assassinate Gerald Ford.  She was a Communist, or at least a leftist, as she stated that her reason for trying to assassinate Ford was mainly because of Nixon and his "war against the left". So I guess Coulter gets a point on this one.

5.  John Hinckley, Jr. (attempted assassin of Ronald Reagan) poses a serious problem. Though he was very much insane and Coulter said we could leave him out because of it.  But, Hinckley was actually well known to the Bush family! He supported George H. Bush's run for president against Reagan in 1980, and his brother Scott Hinckley is a close personal friend of Neal Bush!. He may have been insane, but the ties and the political background all suggest him being conservative. No wonder Coulter wanted to excuse him! He demolishes her idea, just like John Wilkes Booth does. 

Then there are a string of assassins and failed assassins whose names are largely unfamiliar to us because they either tried to assassinate presidents who are not well known to modern Americans or who were not as popular or notable as Lincoln or Kennedy. Their names are all recorded in history, and you can easily find out about them: 

Richard Lawrence (attempted assassin of Andrew Jackson) was a British immigrant who believed that he was the King of England. He blamed Andrew Jackson for allegedly witholding money from him that was owed, which would allow him to realize his place as the rightful heir to the throne of England. He was certifiably insane. 

Leon Czolgosz (William McKinley's assassin) was definitely an Anarchist. Well, here's another one point for Coulter! 

Giuseppe Zangara (attempted assassin of Franklin Roosevelt) was an Italian immigrant who suffered from a variety of painful illnesses. He believed that Roosevelt was responsible for his medical pain. So he goes in the "Insane" category. 

Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo (attempted assassins of Harry Truman) were Puerto Rican Nationalists. As political movements go, the Puerto Rican Nationalists were anti-communist, and their flag had a variation of a cross on it, so they don't fit into any of the molds that Coulter suggests (anarchists, communists, liberals). 

Arthur Bremer (attempted assassin of Richard Nixon) was definitely Insane and said that his attempted assassination of Nixon was supposed to impress a girl who dumped him.

Samuel Joseph Byck (attempted assassin of Richard Nixon) was insane, too. 

Another insane assassin was Frank Eugene Corder (attempted assassin of Bill Clinton), who smashed a stolen Cessna aircraft on the white house lawn in an attempt to kill Bill Clinton. He was a former Viet Nam vet, honorably discharged from the military, but was insane and suicidal. His assassination attempt on Clinton happened, ironically, on September 11th, 1994. 

Francisco Martin Duran (attempted assassin of Bill Clinton) was the gun nut who was pissed off at the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, so he took an SKS semi-automatic weapon to The White House and started rattling off shots from outside the fence. He was an avid listener of the conservative talk show host Chuck Baker.

So there you go.  The claims that all presidential assassins are liberals, communists, or anarchists, is complete dispelled with about 5 minutes of work (trust me, it took less than a minute to find all of the presidential assassins in a list), it's easily proven to be just another dumb, unfounded assertion.  We need to pay more attention to what we post and what we share on social media.  

Because when it's wrong, you look as awful as Ann Coulter.

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