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The 21 Hours Missing From the Life of John W. Hinckley Jr.

   Nathaniel Blumberg is the author of "The Afternoon of March 30," published in 1984. It is a book about a newspaperman who is at first puzzled, then curious, then finally outraged by what the national news media never told the American people about the attempt of John W. Hinckley Jr. to assassinate President Reagan. A Rhodes Scholar, Blumberg served as dean for 12 years and as a professor in the University of Montana School of Journalism for 35 years. He is retired and lives in Montana.    

November 3, 2011


By Nathaniel Blumberg

   Five days before John W. Hinckley Jr. shot and wounded President Reagan and three other men in the nation's capital on the afternoon of March 30, 1981, his mother drove him to Denver's Stapleton Airport, where he boarded a plane to Los Angeles. He arrived in Los Angeles at 1 p.m. The next morning he boarded a Greyhound bus for a four-day ride to Washington, D.C. With whom he spent those 21 hours in Los Angeles has never been disclosed. But members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation found in a tan suitcase in Hinckley's Washington hotel room "studio passes" for the Merv Griffin television show in Los Angeles on March 25. Who attended the show with Hinckley has never been reported.
   The reason for the flight to Los Angeles and the subsequent bus ride across the country was a major subject of investigation in my book, "The Afternoon of March 30," published in 1984 after three years of research. One explanation was that he flew to Los Angeles to pick up the gun he fired in the assassination attempt. (He had been arrested and fined a year earlier in Nashville for boarding a plane in possession of three guns.) The names of Hinckley's co-conspirators—who accompanied him to the Merv Griffin show—are known to the FBI. Those names would supply an explanation of the near assassination far more substantial than the widely accepted theory that "he did it to impress Jodie Foster."
   This year, on the thirtieth anniversary of the shooting, television channel CNN ran a documentary titled "Stalker:The Shooting of Ronald Reagan" which fortified the media version that Hinckley's motive for the shooting was his infatuation with Jodie Foster. But it also attempted to revise history by eliminating any mention of the fact that Hinckley flew to Los Angeles five days before his assassination attempt. It falsely claimed that Hinckley had boarded a bus in Denver—not Los Angeles—to travel to Washington, D.C. This blatant lie adds convincing evidence that the government does not want us to know that his flight to Los Angeles was to meet with persons who conspired in the plot to kill the President of the United States. Why would CNN attempt to revise history by reporting that Hinckley did not fly to Los Angeles but left Denver in a bus to shoot President Reagan?
   Also this year, "Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan," a book by a Washington Post reporter, mentioned Hinckley's flight to Los Angeles but expressed no interest in what he did during his 21 hours there. The book's author supports the official fabricated tale of one of the most significant stories of the 20th century. He even cites the newspapers he consulted, a list which does not include the Houston and Denver newspapers that provided extensive coverage ignored by the mainstream media, which was a major source of information in my book.
   Why has there been a 30-year campaign by government and media to suppress information regarding Hinckley's plane trip to Los Angeles and with whom he met there?

The Hinckley-Bush Connections

   Thirty years ago on the afternoon of March 30, 1981, when John W. Hinckley Jr. fired a bullet that came within a half-inch of President Reagan's aorta, public communications were limited. There were three national television news networks but no Internet, cable or satellite television.
   In the first NBC evening newscast on March 30, a photo of the young Hinckley appeared at the top of the screen as anchor John Chancellor, eyebrows raised, reported that the brother of the man who tried to kill the President was a friend of a son of the man who would be the new president if the attack had been successful. As a matter of fact, Chancellor added in a bewildered tone, Scott Hinckley and Neil Bush had been scheduled to have dinner together at the home of the vice president's son the very next night. Of course, the engagement had been canceled.
   No mention of the scheduled dinner was made on CBS or ABC television. NBC failed to broadcast additional information. The White House officials termed the Scott Hinckley-Neil Bush dinner engagement "a bizarre happenstance." A spokeswoman for Vice President Bush dismissed it as "a total coincidence." And then the story vanished from the mainstream media and was ignored by news magazines except for a derisive sidebar in Newsweek, which lumped the canceled dinner with two ludicrous conspiracy scenarios as if the Bush-Hinckley connection didn't deserve investigation.
   Neil Bush, in a hastily called news conference the next morning in Denver, told reporters that he had met Scott Hinckley "only once" but they were friends.
   Another fact published only on the periphery of the media is that Scott Hinckley, president of Vanderbilt Energy Corporation, met with government officials in his Denver office about an hour before his brother fired those six Devastator bullets. The auditors had begun a fraud investigation of Vanderbilt Energy two months earlier, while John Hinckley was living at home. They were seeking $2 million that they claimed the Hinckley corporation had overcharged crude oil purchasers on oil produced by its Texas wells. The auditors left the office but returned an hour later after they learned of the shooting and removed evidence of the alleged fraud.
   After vehemently denying guilt for several years, Vanderbilt Energy Corporation settled with the government for approximately $800,000.

The Plan to Free John W. Hinckley

   John Hinckley has spent more than 30 years as a mental patient at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. During the early years he was tightly confined in the hospital by two U.S. district judges in charge of his case. After the deaths of the two U.S. district judges, who had given little merit to pleas by Hinckley's Washington lawyers and hospital doctors to grant Hinckley more freedom, President Clinton on August 1, 1994, appointed Paul L. Friedman, a Washington lawyer, to the court in charge of Hinckley's case.
   Judge Friedman, against prosecution arguments, began granting Hinckley more privileges and in 1999 he allowed Hinckley brief supervised trips off hospital grounds to visit the home of his parents in Williamsburg, Va. On December 17, 2003, the judge approved unsupervised visits to Williamsburg. Hinckley was allowed to have a driver's license and to enjoy dates with two and possibly more women, according to the prosecution, and go to movies, bookstores, bowling alleys, restaurants, shopping centers and beaches. According to hospital reports, Hinckley engaged in sexual relations with women both inside and outside the hospital. He had sex for years on hospital grounds with a woman who was a fellow mental patient.
   In 2009, despite the fact that his doctors said Hinckley suffered a psychotic disorder and a narcissistic personality disorder, both in remission, Judge Friedman, over prosecution objections, granted a dozen visits of 10 days each to Williamsburg. Hinckley thereby was allowed to spend almost a third of his time at home for a year. Hinckley was required to carry a GPS-equipped cell phone and was forbidden to talk to the media.
   Judge Friedman, in his ruling, wrote: "The ultimate question is whether a preponderance of the evidence supports the proposition that Mr. Hinckley will not, in the reasonable future, be a danger to himself or others."
   On Oct 1, 2011, St. Elizabeth’s mental hospital, in a sealed order, asked the federal court to allow Hinckley to live with or near his 85-year-old widowed mother in Williamsburg. Hinckley's lawyers and doctors filed their motion under seal to keep the public from knowing what they were doing, but prosecutors quoted the hospital's proposal in their response, making it part of the record.
   The hospital further requested that "it be given the sole discretion to place Hinckley on convalescent leave in his mother's home town." The government lawyers pointed out that there "is recent evidence of deception toward his treating physicians as well as narcissism, both of which are significant risk factors for future violence."
   In addition, those who have looked after Hinckley's interests for 30 years are asking that Hinckley's future be taken out of the control of the federal court and be placed in the hands of the hospital "without any further review by the court."
   Judge Friedman has scheduled a court hearing to start November 28.
   If the judge grants the request to free an assassin suffering from an unspecified psychotic disorder, deep depression and narcissism, allegedly under remission, it would be a deeper stain on a system of justice which has gone horribly wrong. Imagine Hinckley a free man while one of his four victims, Jim Brady, remains incarcerated in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
   It also adds urgency to the need to identify who took Hinckley to the Merv Griffin show during his 21 hours in Los Angeles before he got on a bus to carry out his plan to assassinate the President of the United States.

A Montana Periodical Devoted to Journalism and Justice

Nathaniel Blumberg, Dean of the University of Montana School of Journalism, in 1958 established the Montana Journalism Review, the first academic journalism review in the United States, three years before the founding of the Columbia Journalism Review. After lecturing for 41 years as a professor or visiting professor at six major universities, he devoted his time to WoodFIREAshes Press and the 12-page Treasure State Review, published periodically from Winter Solstice, 1991, to 1999. Twenty printed issues of the only state periodical engaged in critical analyses of the corporate news media have established its reputation as the nation's hardest-hitting journalism review.


A Memoir of World War II

Corporal Nathan Blumberg, a member of the forward observation team of Battery C, 666th Field Artillery Battalion, wrote and published the first history of an Army unit in World War II a few days after V-E Day, 1945, in Germany. It traced the history of the crack 155mm howitzer non-divisional battalion from its formation at Camp Bowie, Texas, to the Battle of the Bulge, the crossings of the Roer and Rhine Rivers, and the drive to the heart of Germany. More than half a century later, Nathaniel Blumberg returned to Belgium and Germany three times (including a "reunion" with German veterans of the Battle of the Bulge) to write the full story of what it was like to be a member of an outfit that went in cold—in more ways than one—to take on Hitler's elite SS troops in the snows of the Ardennes.



Late in the afternoon of March 30, 1981, NBC's John Chancellor, looking astonished, reported that Scott Hinckley, brother of the suspected assassin, was scheduled to have dinner the next night with Neil Bush, son of the man who would become president if Ronald Reagan died of his wounds. A peculiar thing happened in the wake of what may be the most extraordinary coincidence in the history of presidential assassinations. The national print and broadcast media quickly spiked or dismissed that story and then failed to report or misreported scores of other facts documented in this novel that includes a non-fiction investigative article by a Montana newsman. Those who still think John Hinckley did it "to impress Jodie Foster" are in for a revealing trip that covers far more issues than the assassination attempt—including a penetrating analysis of the Central Intelligence Agency. In the light of the criminal activities of Neil Bush and his family in the 30 years since that infamous afternoon, this book is even more relevant today than it was when published in 1984.

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