Assassination Attempts on U.S. Presidential Candidates



As Americans decide who to vote for in the 2016 Presidential election race, the Secret Service is protecting the current major-party candidates (Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump), with the goal of keeping them from any harm. History shows however, that presidential candidates are targeted by potential assassins, and in one significant case, a presidential candidate (who had a very strong chance to become President) has been killed.

Below is a list of attacks made against Presidential candidates, including one former president (Teddy Roosevelt), the brother of a president (Bobby Kennedy), and a southern governor who was an icon of southern racism and extreme states rights (George Wallace).

The recent incidents surrounding Donald Trump's rallies, as well as other, non-violent incidents involving protesters, including Black Lives Matter activists, getting on stage with Bernie Sanders, reminds Americans that politics brings passion, and at times, that political passion manifests itself into dangerous thoughts and threats against the candidates on the road to the White House. There have been several incidents involving Donald Trump, including the June 18, 2016 arrest of a British man named Michael Steven Sandford, who attempted to grab a police officer's gun at a Trump rally in Nevada. The latest incident, on November 5, 2016, caused Secret Service agents to rush the Republican candidate off stage in Reno, as the video below shows:

NOTE: This list is compiled with publicly available information. The Secret Service, the federal law-enforcement agency tasked with protecting presidents, their families, and the current presidential candidates, does not usually disclose threats made against their protectees.


Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt --This former President, who left office in 1909, re-entered politics in the 1912 Presidential election, running as a third-party candidate (with the Bull Moose, or Progressive Party), against sitting Republican President William Howard Taft, and the Democratic challenger, Woodrow Wilson. Roosevelt was making a campaign appearance in Milwaukee on October 14, 1912, when the attempt on his life occurred while giving a campaign speech. The would-be assassin, an immigrant from Germany, John Schrank, had been stalking Roosevelt for some time, and managed to shoot the candidate with a .38 revolver. The bullet was slowed by Roosevelt's 50-page speech (folded over), and his metal eyeglasses case. Though wounded, Teddy Roosevelt went on stage and gave his speech to the audience, before going to the hospital. Doctors determined that it would be more dangerous to operate and remove the bullet than to leave it in him. Roosevelt carried that bullet in his chest the rest of his life. Schrank claimed that the ghost of President McKinley had told him to shoot Roosevelt to prevent him from winning a third term as president. Schrank was found to be insane and spent the rest of his life in the Central State Mental Hospital in Waupun, Wisconsin.


Robert "Bobby" Kennedy--The brother of assassinated President John F. Kennedy, was shot and killed while running for the 1968 Democratic Presidential nomination. His assassin was a Palestinian immigrant named Sirhan Sirhan. Kennedy, who had served as the U.S. Attorney General from 1961-1964 and as a U.S. Senator from New York from1965 to his death in 1968, was the front-runner in the race for the Democratic nomination when he gave a speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, after having just won the California Democratic Primary. He was walking through the hotel kitchen following his victory speech when he was approached by Sirhan Sirhan and shot. Robert Kennedy died the next day, June 6, 1968, at Good Samaritan Hospital.

Years later, Sirhan (who is serving a life-term in prison), stated a political motivation related to Kennedy's support of Israel in the Arab-Israeli conflict when he said in 1989 in an interview with David Frost: "My only connection with Robert Kennedy was his sole support of Israel and his deliberate attempt to send those 50 bombers to Israel to obviously do harm to the Palestinians."

 Sirhan Sirhan, assassin of Bobby Kennedy

Sirhan Sirhan, assassin of Bobby Kennedy

 It should be noted that it was only after the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968, that Secret Service protection was extended to major presidential candidates. When Kennedy was killed, he was not under Secret Service protection.


George C. Wallace--Governor of Alabama several different times (1963-67, 1971-79, and 1983-87), Wallace was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President in1964, 1972, and in 1976 (Wallace also ran for president as an Independent in 1968), and was a very controversial political figure due to his strong stance in favor of racial segregation and states' rights. George Wallace was shot while campaigning in Maryland on May 15, 1972, by Arthur Bremer. President Richard Nixon had actually been Bremer's first target, but Nixon's heavy Secret Service protection caused Bremer to target Wallace instead. A Secret Service agent was also wounded with Wallace. George Wallace was paralyzed from the waist down, and spent the rest of his life (and political career) in a wheelchair.




Edward "Ted" Kennedy--On November 28, 1979, a woman with mental issues named Suzanne Osgood, was arrested just outside Senator Ted Kennedy's Senate office. She had a six-inch hunting knife with her, and she was tackled and arrested by Secret Service agent Joseph F. Meusberger, with assistance from Capitol Police Officer Gilbert Mayo. The Secret Service agent received a minor knife wound on his hand. Kennedy was, at the time, a candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Senator Kennedy, who was working in a nearby office, was not informed of the attack until Osgood had been handcuffed and taken away.

Ted Kennedy was the younger brother of President John Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy, both of whom had been assassinated in the 1960s.

After Kennedy's death from cancer in 2009, the FBI released files that showed dozens of threats to Ted Kennedy's life over the years.


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